Why Inclusive Leadership?

And how to be an inclusive leader.

Relatively few managers will be unaware of the fact that the workforce has now changed. To lead a successful team or business, they must be aware that there will be a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, beliefs and behaviours amongst their people and that speaking in one way, targeting one type of person is no longer enough to get their message across. It is important to practise inclusive leadership.

There are some leaders and managers who struggle with this concept and wish all would return to the ‘good old days’.  They continue to speak to everyone in the same way.  This means they are speaking to an increasing minority of their team. So what happens to the rest of the team? Most would be pretty clear that this sort of (possibly unconscious) strategy is going to at best disengage and at worst alienate many, creating a fractured team which is unlikely to be productive and effective.

If that isn’t enough reason to be more inclusive in leadership styles, let’s look at some other benefits of being an inclusive leader.

According to Deloitte Insights , organisations with inclusive cultures are :

twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets

three times as likely to be high performing

six times more likely to be innovative and agile

eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes

Hard to argue with that. The first step of making changes is to recognise that change is needed.  You realise that your leadership style is not as including as it could be and that you are missing out on the benefits of such leadership.  The next step is to do something about it.  It helps to work out what inclusive leadership looks like.

According to a very helpful article in the Harvard Business Review “Why Inclusive leaders are good for organisations and how to become one” , https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-inclusive-leaders-are-good-for-organizations-and-how-to-become-one , there are six “traits” that inclusive leaders will have.

These are:

“Visible commitment” – the desire to make a difference, promote diversity, speak out and make the changes necessary to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

“Humility” – able to be vulnerable, admit mistakes, capable of and open to  learning from others.

“Awareness of bias” – again, the importance of being aware of the need to make changes to how they are behaving, recognising that they are not perfect and may be flawed in the way they approach diversity.

“Curiosity” – an openness to learn about others, being curious about differences in culture and ways of working and being willing to learn from them.

“Cultural intelligence” – being open about and willing to learn about other cultures and ways of living and working.

“Effective collaboration” – able to appreciate the power of collaboration and how bringing together a diverse team brings a host of benefits, from idea generation to productivity and creativity.

These traits can be learned and developed with time and sufficient desire and once learnt, it is important to ensure that leadership behaviour is consistent.  Occasionally demonstrating curiosity is not enough.  It is something that must become second nature.  By enlisting your team’s help, and asking them to call you out when they notice you are less inclusive, you can find a way of changing your behaviour for good.  It may seem scary, as few of us appreciate such feedback, but with so many advantages it is definitely worth the effort.

Coaching can be useful to support leaders and managers to become more aware of their leadership style and to develop ways of becoming more inclusive as it can be challenging for many to embark on such a project.  Aspects of inclusive behaviour can be identified and tried out in between coaching sessions so that you can feedback how it worked and what can be done differently next time.

If you’re interested in leadership or management coaching to develop a more inclusive style, please get in touch to have a chat about what you’re looking for.  Email catrinmac@gmail.com or call 07785 996917.