Successful Leadership Trends in a Diverse Market

Successful Leadership Trends in a Diverse Market

By Sonali K. Oberg
July 29, 2022 | 3 minutes
Marketing Management and Leadership Management of Individual Personnel Firm Organizational Structure and Dynamics Department Management and Motivation Content Type Article
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Throughout her career, my colleague Mary Umsted, director practice support – M&A and private equity at Sidley Austin LLP (picutred left),  has always promoted inclusive behavior when working with her team members. This fosters a happy workplace, talent retention and a collaborative work environment.

I had the opportunity to discuss with Mary her thoughts on how to build a cohesive team, highlighting the facts that communication, collaboration and adaptability are key steps to becoming a successful inclusive leader. What follows are takeaways from our conversation.  


A cornerstone of inclusive leadership is communicating with your team. More importantly, fostering an environment where the team feels safe to communicate their perspectives and share their experiences is vital. Mary acknowledges that an open and respectful environment demonstrates to team members that their opinions are valued, openly invites those diverse perspectives and creates an environment that appreciates different opinions, rather than viewing them as a problem.


Inviting more people into the conversation, engaging with them and asking for their opinions and suggestions is a great way to build rapport. When people have more context and information, it helps teams be more creative and collaborative. Mary has been successful in doing this through informal lunch and learns, reaching across departments to other business professionals within the firm.

For example, Mary hosted the pricing team for a lunch and learn. It was a great way to get to know the team members, hear about their respective roles and understand who is the best person to go to is for certain types of requests. As projects later rolled in, it made requests easier; because of these lunch and learns, she already knew the person she was calling. The meetings also helped humanize the team. They got to know more about them on a personal level — about their careers, hobbies, families and even favorite flavors of Pop-Tarts.

As marketers, we deal with many teams in order to support the needs of  our lawyers. Mary builds relationships across departments to better understand the firm through different lenses. Creating space for this type of collaboration allows everyone to feel like they are working on a common goal and have buy-in for the success of the project.

As projects later rolled in, it made requests easier; because of these lunch and learns, she already knew the person she was calling. The meetings also helped humanize the team.


Not only is inclusive leadership emerging as a unique and critical capability to help organizations adapt internally, but it is also important in obtaining a diverse customer base. Inclusive leaders are leaders who interact with  diverse professionals around them, build trust, seek others’ points of view, and adapt to the needs to their clients and team members.

Internally, this can be done through mentoring, sponsorship and coaching. Sidley supports this type of development and provides a robust mentoring program where team members can select mentors. Allowing members to choose, rather than assigning, their mentor, and encouraging them to choose someone outside of their function, mentees are more engaged and invested in learning. By doing this, the mentees are empowered to choose who they would like to partner with and learn from both professionally and personally.

As a mentor in the program myself, I was surprised at the benefit I received in learning about different positions within the firm and how I could interact with the teams in a better, more successful manner. The mentoring program is beneficial for both the mentor and mentee.

Inclusive leadership is a roadmap to creating strong, successful business teams. We find that what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included. And this really matters because the more people feel included, the more they speak up, go the extra mile and collaborate — all of which ultimately lifts organizational performance.

Sonali K. Oberg
Sidley Austin LLP

Sonali K. Oberg is the business development and marketing manager at Sidley Austin LLP. As a woman of color and ethnic minority in the legal field as both a legal marketer and lawyer, she has developed a passion for diversity, equity and inclusion. Through her work as a proposal manager at multiple Am Law 100 law firms, she has been an advocate for the building of staff diversity committees and initiatives.