What does inclusive leadership mean? How does a leader embody it?
In today’s increasingly complex environment, teams that rely on the capabilities of people regardless of gender, age, and cultural heritage are the most successful at responding to changes and developing innovative solutions. However, with such diversity comes conflict.
Managing that conflict is the job of an inclusive leader.
Inclusive leaders are people-oriented; they heavily value collaboration and open participation from different groups. To encourage team members to share their diverse opinions, they create a work environment based on trust, respect, and a sense of belonging.
In other words, inclusive leaders create a work culture that focuses on psychological safety, allowing team members to share their ideas without fear of embarrassment. Amy Edmondson writes in The Fearless Organization that team members look for the answers to questions such as “Can I speak up?” “Will I be punished or ridiculed for sharing my opinion?” and “Can I be honest about who I am and my perspective?” as part of ensuring their psychological safety. Leaders are responsible for creating that culture of safety.
A 2018 Deloitte study found that a focus on inclusive leadership improved a team’s performance by 17%, decision-making by 20%, and collaboration by 29%, strongly indicating tangible performance results come from inclusive leadership and embracing diversity.
Then why are there so few inclusive leaders? It’s because many leaders tend to hire those who are most like them. Often, this is done subconsciously—similarities make us feel more comfortable! Unfortunately, this drastically harms the team’s performance because it reduces the likeliness of diversity with differing skill sets.
Here are some tips to help you be a more inclusive leader:
- Encourage a broad range of voices while making decisions.
- Reflect on different perspectives and points of view to increase creativity and innovation.
- Encourage dialogue during team meetings, and encourage everyone to participate in the discussion regardless of differing perspectives.
What differences exist on your team? How will you start to see those as your unique strengths?