The buzz word these days – #inclusive leadership. What exactly does it entail? Is it just about gender diversity or does it have many more components to it?
An inclusive leader is someone who actively encourages, values, and champions diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Organisations that understand the richness of perspectives that people from different cultures, genders, and backgrounds bring, and know how to use these differences to create value are fostering true leaders.
Let’s refresh our thoughts -- What makes an inclusive leader? For me, in brief, this is how I would describe each:
- A proactive approach towards diversity and inclusion - is when a leader’s commitment towards diversity is active and evident in the company’s hiring policies, culture, and employee demographic.
- Constantly learning and unlearning - Inclusivity is always a work in progress. Leaders should know how biases work, and work towards overcoming them. We can’t be wedded to our old traditional thought processes, change is good, diverse is excellent.
- Social intelligence - Mere words are not enough. Leaders claiming that they treat everyone equally is not enough. Leaders who are conscious of the diverse cultures, backgrounds and different communities that are represented in an organisation are leading by example.
- Willingness to listen to different perspectives - Diversity in workforce is insignificant unless there is a space for diversity of thought. True leaders listen, respect and don’t judge people with difference of opinions. We grow as a team when we are challenged out of our comfort zones.
Creating a self-sustaining model of inclusion through effective team building- Leaders should welcome the challenges that come with building diverse teams. A self-sustaining model is only possible when leaders hire people who are comfortable with diversity and then reinforce that sensitivity through trainings and workshops.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, teams with inclusive leaders are “17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to behave collaboratively.” An inclusive leader, therefore, doesn’t just create a more vibrant employee experience but also has a positive impact on how their team performs.
Even though diversity and inclusion are not exactly the same, one feeds off the other. Having inclusion promotes diversity and having diversity promotes inclusion. The case for gender diversity is a strong one. In a world that gets more globalised by the minute, diversity goes beyond gender.
Another aspect of diversity that leaders should effectively balance is age. The generation Z, younger employees are brimming with ideas and keep up with the latest trends in the industry.
Hiring is only a small part of inclusion. Leaders have to walk the extra mile and walk it every day. Sustaining inclusivity in organisations isn’t a side job. It requires a rational approach to make it more efficient by utilising everyone’s unique strengths and integrating them into “business as usual”.
If businesses want to find innovative solutions to problems, drive creativity and learning, and build a culture of acceptance and openness, a diverse and inclusive workforce is the way to go!