The Power Of Inclusion In Leadership

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By Stephane Leblanc, Founder and CEO, International Centre for Conscious Leadership

In the last several years, most companies have tried to increase diversity in their workforce and leadership teams with a focus on diverse, multidisciplinary teams that combine the collective talents and skills of women and men, people of different cultural heritage, and younger and older workers. Many companies have established quotas to meet for women or different ethnicities in leadership positions and some have even included these targets in their management performance program. 

The challenge is that diversity and inclusion is about much more than numbers as simply throwing different types of people together on a team is not enough to guarantee a higher performance. To truly optimize the performance of a team and allow it to rise to its full potential, it also takes inclusive leadership. A leadership demonstrated by conscious leaders who are intent on ensuring that all team members are treated with respect and fairly and feel valued for all that they are which increases their confidence and engagement.

According to research, inclusivity in leadership has a direct impact on performance, on the quality of decisions and collaboration. It also helps improve attendance at work, reducing the cost of absenteeism.

Deloitte Australia did a research and found six signature traits of inclusive leaders: 

Commitment

Cultivating a diverse, inclusive workforce takes time and energy which are some of the most precious commodities for leaders. So what motivates some executives to champion this issue? In addition to a belief in the business case, inclusive leaders are driven by their values, including a deep-seated sense of fairness that, for some, is rooted in personal experience. Inclusive leaders believe that creating a inclusive culture begins with them, and they possess a strong sense of personal responsibility for change and this is demonstrated in their actions and through their commitment.

Courage

Inclusive leaders demonstrate courage in showing that they are not afraid to challenge long standing organizational beliefs and practices that result in homogeneity, even if their recommendations are politically or culturally unpopular. They are also not afraid to display their humility by acknowledging their personal limitations and seeking contributions from others to overcome them. Some leaders find it difficult to admit they don’t have all the answers. Inclusive leaders are always ready to show their vulnerability.

Recognizing biases

Inclusive leaders understand that personal and organizational biases narrow their field of vision and preclude them from making objective decisions. They make a considerable effort to identify their own biases and learn ways to prevent them from influencing the decisions they make about talent. They also seek to implement policies, processes, and structures to prevent organizational biases from stifling diversity and inclusion.

Curiosity

Open-mindedness, a passion for learning, and a desire for exposure to different ideas have fast become leadership traits crucial to success, especially in challenging times. Curiosity and openness are also traits of inclusive leaders, seek other perspectives to minimize their blind spots and improve their decision-making. In addition to accessing a more diverse array of viewpoints, inclusive leaders’ ability to engage in respectful questioning, actively listen to others, and synthesize a range of ideas makes the people around them feel valued, respected, and represented.

Cultural intelligence

 Knowledge of other cultures is essential for leaders who work with people all cultures. Cultural intelligence is demonstrated in leaders ability to change their leadership styles in response to different cultural norms. For example, culturally intelligent leaders who are typically extroverted and demonstrative will make an effort to show restraint when doing business with individuals whose cultures value modesty or humility. They regulate the speed and tone of their speech and modify their nonverbal behaviours, gestures, facial expressions, body language, and physical interactions, as situations dictate. In addition to understanding other cultures, these leaders also demonstrate self-awareness of their own culture, recognizing how it shapes their worldview and how cultural stereotypes can influence their expectations of others.

Collaboration

Inclusive leaders understand that, for collaboration to be successful, team members must first be willing to share their perspectives. They create an environment in which all individuals feel empowered to express their opinions freely with the group. They also realize that diversity of thinking is critical to effective collaboration and they pay close attention to team composition and team processes. They also work to build a sense “one team” by creating a group identity and shared goals, and by working to ensure team members understand and value each other’s knowledge and capabilities.

How many of these traits do you possess?

Are you an inclusive leader?