The world has changed and continues to at a rapid pace, but being aware of changes, new and emerging marketplaces, shifting customer profiles and incorporating talent can overwhelm the best of leaders. That’s why inclusive leadership has become a key strategic decision to incorporate into business practices.
At its heart, inclusive leadership is about bringing people together - regardless of gender, race, sexuality, identity - to better identify market opportunities, raise awareness of diversity amongst employees and champion these differences whilst also bringing all of these groups together to better navigate the business moving forwards.
We are going to take a closer look at what inclusive leadership is, why employers need to incorporate it into their way of working, some examples of inclusive leadership in practice and finally, explain how Thomas can help you identify candidates who align with an inclusive leadership style.
What is inclusive leadership?
Inclusive leadership is the ability to manage and lead a diverse group of people efficiently, respecting their differences in an empathetic, bias-free way. Ruling out discrimination, this authentic leadership style removes bias based on gender, race, age and other protected characteristics, and allows employees to feel valued for their own input.
We have seen over recent years that inclusivity is more than an idea that companies pay lip service to. People want to be heard and make real changes that benefit others, the wider society and even how business operates. There is a discursive process taking place around the world to address this, especially where leadership is required to make these changes.
Inclusive leadership is not an abandonment of the principles that business leaders have had in the past, it's the evolution of these. It involves a deeper understanding of people, and how this impacts business and business practices. Customers and markets are shifting,creating new opportunities for businesses, whilst the ideas that are being proposed shift the paradigm towards quicker, more agile solutions.
Finally, shifting immigration patterns, educational structures, age profiles and even employee expectations around work/life balance have diversified the talent pool and impacted the workforce in various ways.
Inclusive leadership looks to address all of these challenges and opportunities, to which businesses must adapt over the next 20, 30 years and beyond. The benefits of doing so, include improved understanding of customers, enhanced innovation and higher revenue growth, as well as the creation of workplaces that include and utilise people from all walks of life.
Why do employers need to adopt inclusive leadership, and what are the benefits?
According to Deloitte, inclusive companies enjoy 2.3 times more cash flow per employee. Gartner discovered that team performance increased by 30% in high diversity environments. The debate about inclusive organisations is a short one, the more inclusive you are, the better your business will perform.
There are plenty of reasons to adopt inclusive practices in your leadership style. Here are some of the benefits of inclusive leaders explained in more detail.
Increased employee engagement
There is plenty that can be said about making others feel like they are being valued, but in a work context how much more is done when everyone is on the same page? How much more can be achieved when people from different backgrounds, education levels and even religions are treated equally and fairly, and are brought together to discuss solutions? The answer is unsurprisingly, a lot.
Not only are your staff better engaged, but they end up performing better as well - again, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Diversity is a competitive differentiator - consultancy firm McKinsey found that for every 10% increase in gender diversity, EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) rose by an impressive 3.5%.
The companies who have a significantly greater racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform competitors. Finally, a study in the Harvard Business Review discovered that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets - yielding better performance and results.
New perspectives and innovation
The Harvard Business Review once studied diversity the impact of diversity in the workplace on innovation. They found a “statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes.” More diverse organisations with mixes in ethnicity, age, migration, industry, career path, gender and education had a greater positive effect on organisational success. Gender in particular was shown to yield up to a 70% increase in innovation some industries.
People with different backgrounds will have differing experiences increasing your organisation's problem solving and offering fresh ideas about products, services and tech. This can open the door to innovation in a way that the same set of people with similar backgrounds could not expose.
Better decision making
Diverse teams make better decisions according to findings from platforms such as Cloverpop, who analysed over 600 decisions made by 200 teams. They found that diverse teams “have a 60% improvement in decision-making.”
Gender diverse teams outperform individual decision makers, whilst teams that were diverse in geography, gender and age made better decisions nearly 87% of the time.
8 examples of inclusive leadership
What are the traits that make up an inclusive leader and leadership style? Here are some ideas:
Having an open mindset and a desire to understand other people’s points of view is essential in an inclusive leadership style.
With curiosity comes learning and new ideas. Because businesses are rapidly changing, if you’re not learning or trying new things, you will quickly fall behind. Having such an open mindset means that you will need to challenge yourself, your own preconceptions to understand different ideas and values - and underline whether those ideas are valid for the business problem you are trying to solve.
Being able to actively listen, take on different perspectives and have a curious mind can enrich your views and experiences. This is essential for creating the necessary cultural change required in inclusive leadership.
This is as much about cross-cultural interactions as anything else.
Having a greater understanding of the limitations you have experienced because of your cultural background and upbringing is key, especially when discussing new ideas and shaping your views on the decision making process.
Collaboration is about people working together, and the shift in inclusive management styles means that this is more important than it has ever been. Instead of creating a pyramid with a leader at the top, leaders strive to create a system where they are in the middle of the group, taking on ideas, empowering their teams to be creative and thinking about solutions together.
Fundamentally, employees need to feel completely comfortable sharing their views and their diverse perspectives without fear. This is about empowering those around you to open up and create the conditions they feel they need to express themselves fully, making the collaboration process an easier one to achieve.
How committed are you to creating the cultural change that makes inclusivity a real ambition for the leadership team? This is something that you need to behind 100% to avoid tokenism.
Inclusive leadership is a real change of direction for many businesses. From the way that teams are structured to the way that people are supported, the whole system needs to be reviewed, and this requires a genuine commitment to inclusive leadership.
You need to be prepared to challenge the status quo, putting yourself on the line to create a leadership culture that includes everyone. Being humble about strengths and weaknesses is a key part in this process to show that you can support others, but also be supported when required.
Being able to speak up and challenge others is part of this paradigm; you must challenge others, the system, and even with yourself.
Being an agent of change can be difficult, and it takes courage to make change happen, especially when it involves bringing more people into the conversation and standing up for those who need to be protected as well.
One of the keys to inclusive leadership is creating connections. They give you real life experiences and different perspectives that you can’t get from people who have had a similar experience to yourself.
Importantly, inclusive leaders invite the opportunity to get different perspectives and views and opinions which can help shape the way you solve problems and discuss matters at a future date as well.
All of these points require a level of self-awareness. Are you courageous enough to challenge yourself and those around you? Do you have an ability to learn and be curious about what is going on around you? Do you know what makes you tick?
This is an essential trait for inclusive leaders.
How Thomas assessments help with inclusive leadership
Thomas assessment tools are designed to help with understanding diversity in recruitment decisions and give individuals the tools they need to benefit from diversity in the workplace.
Our assessments can provide everything from valuable insight into a person's strengths and potential derailers as well as whether your leaders are self-aware, excellent communicators and can adapt their behaviour to suit a variety of situations.
If you would like to learn more about how Thomas can help with inclusive leadership, speak to one of our team.