Innovating the Future: Cheryl Stokes on Inclusive Leadership at CNEXT

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 04-11-24


Cheryl Stokes, the CEO of CNEXT, joined Jamie Flinchbaugh on his podcast “People Solve Problems” to share her insights into corporate education, leadership development, culture change, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. With a rich background that spans over two decades, Cheryl has significantly contributed to these fields through her roles at Heidrick & Struggles and Duke Corporate Education before her current role. Her educational achievements include two Master of Science degrees from MIT and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Kettering University, equipping her with a unique perspective on leadership and organizational effectiveness.

In the episode, Cheryl discusses the concept of inclusion, defining it as the intentional creation of an environment where all individuals can contribute productively. She stresses the importance of moving beyond merely assembling diverse groups to ensuring active participation and listening within these groups. She emphasizes that inclusion requires deliberate effort and intentionality to be meaningful and effective.

Cheryl elaborates on the concept of inclusive leadership, which she describes as the ability to foster an environment that celebrates and utilizes the diversity of a team. She outlines the traits of an inclusive leader, including humility, self-awareness, curiosity about others, cultural intelligence, the ability to collaborate effectively, and a visible commitment to inclusion. These traits, according to Cheryl, are essential for leaders who aim to unlock the full potential of their teams by creating a culture of belonging and engagement.

The conversation also touched on the equation of diversity and inclusion, with Cheryl explaining that while diversity is a fact, inclusion is an act that leads to a sense of belonging, which in turn drives engagement within organizations. This engagement is crucial for achieving lower turnover rates, higher productivity, and overall organizational success.

Cheryl’s contributions extend beyond her professional work; she is involved in several organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and serves as a trustee with the UK charity Leadership Through Sport and Business, supporting disadvantaged young people. Her commitment to fostering inclusive environments and promoting social mobility is evident in her work and volunteer activities.

Listeners of the podcast can learn more about Cheryl Stokes and her work in fostering inclusive leadership and organizational cultures through her company’s website, and her LinkedIn profile. Her insights provide valuable guidance for anyone looking to enhance their leadership skills and build more inclusive, productive, and engaged teams.