What is Inclusive Leadership?
Inclusive leadership is an example of a management style that encourages and values diversity within an organization. An inclusive leader creates an environment where every employee or member of an organization feels respected, valued and as if they belong.
This type of leader understands the importance of diversity and inclusion and works to ensure that all team members have the resources and support they need to be successful.
Why Focus on Inclusive Leadership Now?
The business case for Diversity and Inclusion has never been stronger. According to the 2018 CEPC whitepaper, “Diversity & Inclusion in Corporate Social Engagement”, diverse and inclusive organizations are 70% more likely than their peers to capture new markets.
It’s also a crucial time to focus on employee satisfaction. After the Great Resignation of 2021, employees prove to be more selective about the companies for which they’re willing to work. Plus, surveys highlight that Millennial and Gen Z employees feel that diversity and inclusion are requirements and should be visible and active throughout any company they work for.
Creating an inclusive environment also allows leaders to tap into the power of diversity. A diverse workforce is more innovative, creative and effective.
What are the Benefits of Inclusive Leadership?
Truly authentic, inclusive leaders bring value to a corporation through creating a positive environment and shifting attitudes through leading by example. There are clear and tangible benefits to choosing and developing inclusive leaders.
Fostering Employee Well-being
Inclusivity is rooted in well-being. When leaders ensure employees feel like they belong and are valued, they are more engaged and productive. Plus, employees who feel respected and supported are more likely to be loyal to a company. Inclusive leadership is essential for any organization that wants to be a force for good by fostering employee well-being.
Innovation is essential to the success of any organization. Things are always changing and the best learn how to change with the times while staying rooted in the core values of any institution. Inclusive leaders create the conditions for new insights to emerge, for diverse perspectives to be heard and for good ideas to become great.
Authentic leaders set the stage for collaboration by establishing norms and expectations that encourage openness, risk-taking and respect for all team members. The fostering of diverse thought can create mind-blowing effectiveness and problem-solving.
Inclusive leaders know that managing diverse employees who feel respected and valued leads to a team that is more engaged and productive. When an employee is recognized and valued in their authenticity, they are more likely to be open and engaged in their day-to-day operations and communications.
Every person should feel like their sum of unique experiences, viewpoints and skills belong at the table. The more this goal is accomplished, the more employee buy-in and productivity organizations can expect.
How Can I Become an Inclusive Leader?
Becoming an inclusive leader starts with a commitment to learn and grow. It’s not about being perfect but about continuously striving to improve.
Here are three ways you can begin to become an inclusive leader immediately:
- Understand How Bias Affects Performance
The first step to becoming an inclusive leader is understanding how your unconscious bias affects performance. We all have biases, which can influence our decision-making in ways we may not even be aware of.
By learning about and working to understand our biases, we can more effectively identify when they’re impacting our decision-making and take steps to mitigate their influence. We also become an example for others to check their biases at the door when interacting with our coworkers.
- Including Diverse Voices in Decision-Making Processes
Once you’ve faced your own biases and how they may be affecting your work, the next step is to take action towards being open to diversity of thought and experience. When everyone feels they have a seat at the table, they’re more likely to buy into decisions and feel invested in the outcome. This also allows you to tap into the power of diversity—diverse perspectives can lead to more innovative and creative solutions.
- Being Open-Minded and Flexible
As an inclusive leader, it’s important to remember that you need to be flexible in your leadership style. This means being open to different ways of achieving your goals while not abandoning your own outlook and experiences. It’s also essential to remember that inclusion is not a one-size-fits-all solution and having the cultural intelligence to understand how to celebrate diversity without making others feel uncomfortable is a necessary skill that often needs fine-tuning.
The most inclusive leaders can adapt their leadership styles to meet the needs of their team, allowing them to create an environment where diverse perspectives are welcomed and combined to bring forth inventive products, services and processes. By becoming more open-minded and flexible, you can become an inclusive leader who can meet the needs of your team members and the people your company serves.
Creating an Action Plan for Inclusive Leadership
Without a plan of action, any inclusivity efforts you have for yourself or your team will eventually become out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Combat this complacency by developing and implementing a plan of action that supports the growth and development of inclusive leaders.
Identify Areas for Growth and Improvement
Identifying areas for growth and improvement has to happen before any effective plan can form. If done personally, you can identify areas for growth through self-reflection and conversations with peers and mentors.
When planning to improve inclusive leadership throughout an organization, information should be gathered from multiple data points. This data should include feedback from management, human resources professionals, employees, customers and even partnering organizations.
Ensuring you have measurable data on your business’s diversity and inclusivity can also be done through a diversity audit of your organization, performed by a qualified third party.
Create Measurable Goals
When setting goals, it’s essential to be as specific as possible so you can track your progress and ensure that you’re making the changes you need to become a more inclusive leader. This is necessary at a personal, team, or organizational level. For example, if your goal is to increase the inclusivity of your team, you might set a goal to hold at least one training on topics like diverse connections or allyship or diversity per quarter.
Or, if you want to encourage more promotion of people from underrepresented groups, you may set a goal to build a mentoring network that builds relationships and provides knowledge to qualified individuals.
Whatever your goals may be, remember that specificity is key. By setting measurable objectives, you’ll be able to track your progress and ensure that you’re making the changes you need to support more inclusivity in your workplace.
Set an Inclusive Leadership Strategy
After you’ve identified areas for growth and set measurable goals, it’s time to develop a plan of action. If this is a personal development plan, make sure your strategy is realistic and consistent and share it with a mentor or peer who will hold you accountable. If you’re planning to support the growth of inclusive leaders in your organization, this strategy should be carefully developed with plenty of input. When creating and presenting your strategy, visible support from leadership is essential to the success of your action plan.
Your action plan should include extensive and regular training as a reminder on your new pathways of thought and rewards for behavior shifts and decisions that reflect an inclusive perspective. Your expectations should value competencies that allow everyone to feel seen, heard and respected.
By identifying critical behaviors of inclusive leaders most important to your organization, you can hold managers accountable to clear expectations and drive organizational change. However, authentic change only comes when a shift in thinking opens the mind to a new perspective, which is why diversity training that focuses on an abundance mindset is ultimately the most important part of inspiring change for diversity and inclusion.
By developing a comprehensive plan of action that starts with the human side of our connections, you can ensure that you’re taking the necessary steps to encourage real equitable and inclusive leadership throughout your organization.
At its best, your organization’s inclusivity will be woven into each interaction and process within your company. The same is true for your individual leadership goals. That’s why it’s important to document the changes in action that you take everyday. When your processes are documented, it’s easier to see where adjustments may be needed.
This documentation also allows for greater transparency and accountability within the organization, as everyone can see what needs to be done and why. Furthermore, by regularly reviewing the efficacy of personal and organizational actions, you can ensure that you are always moving forward and progressing toward your goals of fostering an inclusive environment.
When done right, documentation can be a powerful tool for driving positive change.
The final step in encouraging authentic diversity through an inclusive leadership action plan is to measure your progress. This can be done in several ways but should always include some form of feedback from employees. Employee surveys are a great way to gauge how inclusive leadership practices are being received and identify any areas where improvement may be needed.
It’s also important to track employee behavior and attitude changes over time. This could be done through data collected from performance reviews, exit interviews, or other HR processes. Hiring statistics, employee retention for those identifying as members of marginalized groups, and promotability of employees from underrepresented groups, can also provide valuable insights. By regularly measuring progress, you can ensure that your organization is making the changes necessary to become more inclusive on all levels.
Discover How You Can Develop Inclusive Leadership Skills in Your Organization.
A relatable diversity, equity and inclusion training program that allows your leadership to let down their guard and learn about these critical concepts can be the most powerful first step in making a significant cultural shift in your organization.
Learn with Risha Grant DE&I Online Training
The Learn with Risha Grant online diversity, equity and inclusion training program is designed to increase your company’s inclusivity and help leaders become aware of their unconscious biases. It will also help you to create a more cohesive work environment and improve employee productivity. This online course will give your leadership team the necessary knowledge and tools to become more inclusive leaders.
Some of the topics that will be covered include:
- What is unconscious bias?
- How can I overcome my own biases?
- How can I create a more inclusive environment?
- How to be a better ally
- Managing difficult conversations around diversity
If you’re interested in encouraging authentic diversity in your workplace, check out the Learn with Risha Grant’s online DEI training program for lasting and significant shifts to a more inclusive corporate culture.