According to Laure Fraval, Managing director and HR Consultant at Citi “inclusive leaders are very good at getting the best out of all their people”. Dan Robertson, Diversity and Inclusion Director at ENEI, explains how “Inclusive leadership is to be aware of your own biases and references, to actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision making and to see diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage”
Dan goes on to explain, whether knowingly or not, organisations generally hire people that look the same, sound the same and come from the same background. We are all guilty of making judgements on someone’s talent based on our views of how they appear, sound or behave – something Dan aptly termed the ‘The Susan Boyle Effect’.
A focus on inclusive leadership aims to quash this unconscious bias; making your business diverse and, in the process, opening it up to all the clear benefits that come with diversity. Essentially, if your business desires higher staff productivity, satisfaction and engagement then it needs to become more diverse, and in order to become more diverse you need inclusive leaders to inspire change from the top down.
Four characteristics of an inclusive leader: Empowerment, humility, courage and accountability are four characteristics of an inclusive leader.
Empowerment: Enabling direct reports to develop and excel.
Humility: Admitting mistakes. Learning from criticism and different points of view. Acknowledging and seeking contributions of others to overcome one’s limitations.
Courage: Putting personal interests aside to achieve what needs to be done. Acting on convictions and principles, even when it requires personal risk-taking.
Accountability: Demonstrating confidence in direct reports by holding them responsible for performance they can control.
Dan Roberston, Diversity and Inclusion Director at ENEI provides specific actions that leaders should take responsibility for such as:
- Schedule meetings at times which ensure maximum participation
- Invite everyone to contribute to discussions
- Monitor who attends social events, and find out why some don’t
How we can inspire inclusivity?
Now that you’ve established the qualities that you need to look for and foster in inclusive leaders, the next step is to put this knowledge into practice. Laure Fraval from Citi explains, “It can’t stay in the boardroom”. The core qualities around which they built a tool-kit were the ability to:
- Relate – To go out of their way to relate to people
- Adapt – To be able to adapt their style to their audience and not the other way round
- Develop – To develop their people every day.
Getting buy-in from the rest of your team, and having them understand the importance of inclusive leadership, can be tricky, but it’s absolutely essential for success. Change agents can be found throughout an organisation, but a key element for sustained commitment and success is of course the leadership at the top.
It’s important that you keep tabs on developments by holding regular performance appraisals with your leaders and encourage them to do the same with their teams – all the while acting upon the three broad steps in the previous section. You really need to be leading from the front to guarantee inclusivity is embedded in your recruitment and promotion criteria, management development and reward programmes, and cultural changes programmes.