Inclusive leadership definition: the capacity to manage and lead a heterogeneous group of people efficiently while respecting their uniqueness in an empathetic, bias-free way. It's an authentic leadership style that rules out discrimination, bias and favour based on colour, race and other protected characteristics and allows employees to feel valued for their own input.
Why is inclusive leadership important?
We live in a diverse working world. There's not just diversity in our workforce, there is also diversity in the customers we want to attract, in the messages we share or consume via various platforms and in the markets we plan to expand to.
Inclusive leadership is essential for ensuring diverse thinking is respected, managed, heard and applied. And inclusive leaders who understand how cognitive diversity can impact change are uniquely prepared to communicate and influence in a way that gets everyone on board with new ideas and ways of doing things. They are also the catalyst for driving innovation.
Too often, innovation doesn't live up to its promise because of the lack of a key ingredient: effective leadership, specifically, leaders who can create the conditions for new insights to emerge, for diverse perspectives to be heard, and for good ideas to become great and get implemented. In other words, they lack inclusive leadership.
Inclusive leaders create balance. Inclusive leaders adapt quickly to diverse scenarios and alternate perspectives with an open, non-judgmental mind to achieve the best results possible. And research shows that, when done right, there are many benefits; high-performing teams and organisational cultures and teams that work more collaboratively and make better overall decisions.
With businesses increasingly optimising their diversity and inclusion activities, inclusive leadership is more relevant now than ever. No matter how great your company's diversity metrics get, be that in new hires you make or deals you close if you don't have an inclusive environment that embraces all these differences and creates a workspace where everyone can bring their true selves to work, your D&I initiatives will fail. That's why inclusive leaders are needed to set the right tone.
What are the top qualities of inclusive leaders?
Visible commitment: They articulate an authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.
Humility: They are modest about their capabilities, admit mistakes, and create space for others to contribute.
Awareness of bias: They show awareness of personal blind spots, as well as flaws in the system, and work hard to ensure a meritocracy.
Curiosity about others: They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek empathy to understand those around them.
Cultural intelligence: They are attentive to other cultures and adapt as required.
Effective collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to the diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.
The world of work is changing rapidly, so we have updated this guide regularly to help ensure your team grows as inclusively as possible.