Article · 7 minute read
The Importance of Inclusive Leadership and How You Can Nurture It
By Richard Williams – 26th April 2023
Inclusive leadership has been a key HR topic in recent times but after speaking with clients at the beginning of the year, it was clear that inclusive leadership to help drive the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion agenda was a high priority for many in 2023.
What is inclusive leadership?
Inclusive leadership is probably a term you’ve heard being used more and more in HR circles over the last few years. Harvard Business Review defines it as “Leadership that assures that all team members feel they are treated respectfully and fairly, are valued and sense that they belong, and are confident and inspired” (1).
What are the benefits?
Some of the benefits of inclusive leadership for an organization are (2):
Organizations with inclusive leadership teams and effective DE&I strategies are reaping the benefits. Statistics show that 85% of businesses say that diversity drives the most innovative work and 30% of companies with inclusive policies generated up to 30% higher revenue per person compared to those who don’t (2).
Other research suggests that teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively (1).
Further to this, having inclusive leaders at the helm of your organization can help drive a truly effective DE&I strategy, attract and retain a more diverse workforce, as well as help promote increased ‘diversity of thought’ throughout your organization. This diversity of thought can help you overcome the pitfalls of ‘group think’ (where workers of similar backgrounds and culture perspectives are unable to see the bigger picture) leading to potential cultural blunders and PR disasters (3).
What traits do inclusive leaders have?
There are numerous models and perspectives that try to capture the definitive traits and behavioral characteristics that inclusive leaders tend to have. When looking into them, these are the areas that we found appear several times across the various models:
Decision making should be for the many not just the few.
Curiosity and understanding without judgment.
Advocating for Others
Commitment to inclusivity, the ability to challenge status quo.
Consulting with Others
Empowering all individuals to contribute.
Within our own research, the behaviors that we continuously see predicting leadership success, regardless of organization or industry, are:
When we start to explore the effect of critical behavior combinations, the importance and the value of empathy also starts to shine through. What our research is telling us is that leaders who are able to do all of the above AND understand and empathize with others do better than those who solely focus on the above.
How can we help you measure these traits?
The first step to building inclusive leadership capabilities is to raise leaders’ self-awareness. Dr Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President & Global Chief Diversity Officer at Sodexo explains that: “Those who lack the self-awareness and humility to learn and admit they don’t know everything are leaders who miss an opportunity to learn, and who will be blindsided if they are not careful (4)”.
Feedback and behavioral psychometrics provide the mechanism to enable this. Our Leadership Impact model provides a framework to discuss Leadership Styles and the ‘People’ cluster within the model helps to deep dive into the inclusive leadership behaviors.
Whilst this model is not a direct measure of inclusive leadership, it can be used to instigate and drive meaningful conversations with leaders, based around the behaviors identified as important:
Within the Leadership Impact model, a Collaborator leads by encouraging others to work together constructively in order to achieve goals. Discussion points within this area consist of:
A Facilitator leads by responding to the needs of others. Discussion points within this area are:
Advocating for Others
An Enthusiast engages others by building rapport and taking an optimistic approach while a Persuader leads through active communication and seeks agreements which are mutually beneficial. We encourage discussion around the following areas:
Consulting with Others
A Consulter develops a wide network of contacts and is responsive to external feedback while an Inspirer leads by motivating others and asserting themselves in the leadership role. Discussions around this area should consist of:
Our Leadership Impact report is a great tool for starting open and meaningful conversations around inclusive leaders and can be used in conjunction with our two Leadership Clusters, Pioneering and Professional, which allows you to really consider how other areas will impact their ability to be a truly inclusive leader:
Within the Professional Cluster, you may want to ask yourselves:
Within the Pioneering Cluster, it’s important to consider:
The Time is Now
While there’s no silver bullet, and changing leadership cultures can take some time, using tools such as ours can help you open up developmental discussions and align your leaders with your values and inclusive DE&I strategy.
Truly inclusive leadership helps create a ‘safe’ environment where employees feel valued and their voices heard, and can help lead to increased innovation, better talent attraction, retention and increased productivity. If it isn’t in place, or high up on your talent agenda, isn’t it time you ask yourself why not?
Identify, Select & Develop Inclusive Leaders Who Make a Real Impact
Our Leadership Impact tools empower organizations to align their leaders with their strategic requirements.
About the Author
Richard is Marketing Manager at Saville Assessment and heads up our training and product marketing activity. He works closely with our design and consultancy teams to ensure our clients have the resources they need, as well as helping to organize virtual and face-to-face industry events.
You can connect with Richard on LinkedIn here.