Business leaders have largely embraced the idea that diversity is good for business, but many also realize that simply throwing a mix of diverse people together doesn’t guarantee high performance. More and more people are saying that it requires “inclusive leadership”. But what is it? In this blog post, we will explore the latest research findings on inclusive leadership and how they can be applied to create more inclusive and successful workplaces.
Understanding Inclusive Leadership:
In general, inclusive leadership is a leadership approach that actively values and leverages differences among team members to drive innovation, collaboration, and overall success. A study by Catalyst shows employees’ experience inclusion as a feeling of belonging at work and a sense of uniqueness. Research shows that when people feel too similar to group members, they try to set themselves apart, to feel unique. When people feel too different from group members, they feel like they don’t belong. To remedy that, they may try to assimilate and become more similar. Many experts believe these needs for uniqueness and belongingness are in fact universal. Inclusive leadership thus entails facilitating the experience of both uniqueness and belonging in employees.
The Research Showing the Benefits of Inclusive Leadership:
Studies by Catalyst, Deloitte, and others have found that inclusive leadership supports:
- Increased Problem-Solving and Innovation: Inclusive leaders encourage open dialogue and diverse viewpoints. This approach leads to better decision-making and problem-solving, as various perspectives are considered. This in turn allows more innovate solutions to emerge, giving the organization a competitive edge.
- Improved Employee Engagement: Research consistently demonstrates that employees feel more engaged and committed to their work when they experience more inclusion.
- Better Retention Rates: Organizations with inclusive leaders tend to have higher employee retention rates. When employees feel valued and included, they are more likely to stay with the company.
Research on Best Practices for Inclusive Leadership:
Studies on the characteristics of inclusive leadership identify a range of different traits or behaviours. Most include some variation of the following:
- Self-awareness: Inclusive leaders understand are aware of unconscious bias, including their own blind spots and limitations.
- Active Listening: Inclusive leaders actively listen to their team members, fostering an environment where everyone’s voice is heard and respected.
- Curiosity about others: Inclusive leaders demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, seeking to understand rather than judge.
- Empathy: Inclusive leaders seek to identify and understand other people’s emotions, motivations, and experience.
- Visible commitment: Inclusive leaders champion initiatives and policies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Humility: Inclusive leaders openly acknowledge their own limitations, admit mistakes and create space for others to contribute.
- Empower others: Inclusive leaders pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety and focus on team cohesion.
The research shows that inclusive leadership is not just a trend—it’s a powerful strategy for building stronger, more innovative, and resilient organizations. Backed by extensive research and a set of best practices, inclusive leadership is the key to unlocking the full potential of your diverse workforce.
I encourage organizations to embrace the insights from recent research and commit to developing inclusive leaders who will drive positive change within their teams and organizations. The journey toward inclusive leadership is an ongoing one, but the rewards in terms of a more diverse, engaged, and successful workforce are well worth the effort.