Ep 144: A Fresh Perspective on Inclusive Leadership (with Dr. Ella Bell Smith)

by Joan Garry

Inclusive leadership requires more than just attending DEI training and then integrating what you learn into your nonprofit org. Listen in as leadership and DEI consultant, Dr. Ella Bell Smith, shares how this work goes much deeper.


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Inclusive leadership requires more than just attending DEI training and then integrating what you learn into your nonprofit organization — this work goes much deeper. Join me as I dive into this topic and do some self-reflection with today’s guest, one of the leading experts in the management of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, Dr. Ella Bell Smith.

It is no secret that the nonprofit sector has a major diversity problem. Don’t believe me? Consider the fact that the percentage of people of color in the ED/CEO role in our sector has remained under 20% for the last 15 years.

As a white woman involved in this work, I can admit that at times I have found myself totally oblivious to my own privilege and power. Before embarking on my own DEI journey with my team at the Nonprofit Leadership Lab, I naively assumed that my time as an LGBTQIA+ activist would make the road less bumpy.

But when it comes to DEI work, there is no room for assumptions — especially for leaders. Inclusive leadership requires you to keep your mind open so you can ask the right questions. This is how you begin to build the bridge between you and the people in your organization and lay the groundwork for a culture of belonging. That’s what inclusive leadership is about.

In today’s episode, leadership and DEI consultant and professor of business administration at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Dr. Ella Bell Smith, shares a fresh perspective on this topic and shares some sound advice for nonprofit leaders who are ready to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

You see, DEI training is not some not some standalone project or checklist — it is a must-have for intentional leadership in today’s world.

In This Podcast:

  • Why is diversity and inclusion important?
  • How do leadership and diversity intersect?
  • What is DEI training?
  • Should nonprofit leaders invest in DEI training?
  • Why is it so important for nonprofit leaders to self-reflect on their own privilege?


Contact Dr. Ella Bell Smith

About Dr. Ella Bell Smith:

Ella Bell Smith has built her life and her career around transforming other peoples’ lives. Through teaching, mentoring, leading and inspiring, she has shown them the impact knowing yourself can have on every aspect of your life. Her insight enables people to have self-confidence and self-awareness and to be their authentic selves.

Working in the field of organizational behavior and organizational change, she is one of the leading experts in the management of race, gender, and class in the workplace. She is a consultant to Fortune 100 and 500 companies and public institutions on the advancement of all women in the workplace, as well as issues related to authentic leadership for both men and women.

In addition to teaching in Tuck’s MBA and executive education programs, Ella Bell Smith is the founder and president of Ascent: Leading Global Women to the Top, an organization committed to professional development and career advancement. Ascent’s leadership programs are offered in partnership with Tuck School of Business.

Professor Smith’s research interests focus on the career and life histories of professional women, and she is currently studying issues of personal leadership. Her book, Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape, offers proven techniques for women wishing to advance their careers in the fast-changing corporate world. With colleague Stella M. Nkomo, she co-authored the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed book Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity, which provides an unflinching look at the formative experiences of female executives and reveals that black women have charted a unique course up the corporate ladder.

Professor Smith has written articles for Essence magazine and also the monthly “Working It” column. Frequently quoted by journalists, she has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Black Enterprise, Newsweek, Working Mother, and Fast Company. In 2005, she received both the Compass Award from the Women’s Leadership Exchange and the Legacy of Leadership Award from the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement. She was the recipient of the McGregor Award for Best Paper, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, in 2001.

Professor Smith has served as an advisory board member of the National Women’s Leadership Summit, The White House Project, and as the advisory board chair of Best Companies for Women of Color, Working Mother Media. She currently serves on the board of the Center of Talent and Innovation.

Prior to joining the faculty at Tuck, she was on the faculties of Yale’s School of Organization and Management, MIT Sloan School of Management, University of Massachusetts, and University of North Carolina. She has been a Fellow of the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. She received her BA from Mills College of Education, her MA from Columbia University, and her PhD from Case Western Reserve University.