Inclusive Leadership

22nd August 2016

Update: You can now download our exclusive guide to Inclusive Leadership >>

A Competitive Economy

In an ever more competitive economy, forward-thinking organisations are doing whatever they can to be more attractive to the best candidates regardless of their personal characteristics. They are also very engaged with increasing their productivity and creativity within their organisations. A major part of attaining these goals is the inclusive nature of an organisation.

In the case of competing for the best young talent, millennials consider how a job aligns with their values rather than just looking at remuneration. They place great importance on social causes and sense of purpose and they also spend a lot of time shopping around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals.

Once young people are hired, the challenge for many companies is keeping them fulfilled and engaged. According to a recent Gallup poll, a staggering 71% of Millennial employees are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ at work.

There is a growing sense amongst employees that they want to be recognised as being integral to an organisation’ s aims and successes. Inclusive leadership plays a fundamental role in achieving this.

Increasing Employee Engagement through Inclusive Leadership

There are a myriad of ways to increase engagement and overall workplace happiness, but not all of them need to be expensive perks.

Particularly in organisations with a large and varied team, implementing diversity training and promoting an inclusive culture can help your employees from all backgrounds to thrive.

The more effective an organisation is at supporting diversity and inclusion, the more engagement that organisation will experience among its employees.

However, many organisations promote diversity while actually struggling to fully leverage the business benefits of a diverse workforce.

While diversity training is a great core step, actively promoting an inclusive culture and designing a supportive workplace culture takes a bit more work. Diversity without inclusion does not work.

For companies trying to achieve a more inclusive organisation, it starts with the leadership style. It is key that the leaders within those organisations adopt an effective inclusive leadership model.

Inclusion does not mean that leaders abdicate their management responsibilities but it can support and make their management of others more effective.

What is Inclusive Leadership

Leadership is about influencing others through personal attributes and behaviours to achieve prescribed outcomes; it is not about managing others.

“Leadership is that process in which one person sets the purpose or direction for one or more other persons and gets them to move along together with him or her and with each other in that direction with competence and full commitment.” (Jacques & Clement, 1994)

Inclusive Leadership is about treating people and groups fairly based on their unique characteristics, rather than acting on biases derived from stereotypes.

It is also about personalising individuals understanding and valuing the uniqueness and differences of others while at the same including them as members of the organisation, networks and work groups.

Lastly, Inclusive Leadership is about utilising the thinking of diverse groups for smarter ideas, solutions and decision making has the potential to provide different approaches and ways of working that move the organisation forward.

What does an Inclusive Leader do

Here is how a leader should act to show that they are inclusive:

  1. Show optimism, promote collaboration and demonstrate dependability.
  2. Have a positive impact on individuals and organisations they encourage everyone to engage within the organisation.
  3. Encourage, develop and bring out the best in others, always highlighting others’ contributions and accomplishments.
  4. Facilitate and mediate situations to take account of differing views and ideas.
  5. Committed to and embrace the diversity of employees and customers, and understand the value of real dialogue and consultation with all groups.
  6. Recognise their own biases

What characteristics does Inclusive Leadership have

There are three characteristics that illustrate an inclusive leader:

  1. Leading self

They lead themselves by recognising that everyone’s unique perspectives and values, and how differences can contribute to more effective business outcomes. These leaders minimise their own biases through personal development, their actions, and commitment to on-going accountability.


  1. Leading relationships

Inclusive leaders build great relations with others by networking broadly, adapting their style to others, and encouraging others’ development. Their focus is on the on acknowledgement of a person’s value and accomplishments. They aim to build others’ confidence and competence, allowing them to realise their potential. This provides employees the opportunity to excel benefiting themselves and the organisation.


  1. Leading Culture

Inclusive Leaders build environments in which people feel comfortable and at ease able to contribute without being something they are not. This entails building trust, respect, and a feeling of belonging in the organisation. They do not take sole credit when things go well and do not blame others when things go wrong. They understand the access the tap variety of differences in an organisation for the benefit of the organisation not themselves.

How does Inclusive Leadership fits into the wider world of work

Here is how inclusive Leadership is becoming essential in an increasingly globalised world:

  1. Diversity of markets: the global nature of the economy is shifting the emphasis of markets. Any organisation with an international focus has to embrace the growing diversity of the marketplace.
  2. Diversity of customers: customer demographics and attitudes have are changed and will continue to do so. People have become empowered through technology with access to greater choice. An increasingly diverse customer base expects organisations to cater for their wants and needs.
  3. Diversity of ideas: digital technology, hyper-connectivity, and deregulation are changing organisations’ business values through the changing nature of consumption and competition.
  4. Diversity of talent: shifts in demographics including age profiles, education, and migration flows, along with expectations of equality of opportunity, work/life balance, flexible careers are having a major impact on recruitment and retention.

Inclusive Leadership and Effective Management

There are lots of benefits to adopting an inclusive leadership approach but within organisations whether large or small managers need to be responsible for the effective operation of the organisation.

It is a good thing for managers to be inclusive in their management style because this can enhance outputs, increase motivation and engagement of employees. However they also need to be able to make decisions, set goals, and manage performance.

This cannot always be achieved by involving everyone in taking sometimes difficult or unpopular decisions. Being inclusive must not be a barrier to management and should not be used as an excuse for management inaction.

There is a balance to be struck. Inclusive leadership is beneficial to effective management but is not a replacement for managing people.

Challenges to an Inclusive Leadership Culture

It’ s not all positive though, as an Inclusive Leadership culture comes with some challenges.

Some people in leadership roles may follow routines with which they are comfortable, enjoying a stable environment rather than recognising the need for changes.

By always looking for win-win situations and to accommodate everyone, they can be reticent or slow to make decisions, especially unpopular or disruptive ones.

Being included is about feeling part of a wider whole where all employees regardless of their personal characteristics or status. The challenge is to build a successful organisation that is recognised as being inclusive but also is effectively manages its people.

Marshall E-Learning has customisable training courses encompassing many key elements of an inclusive, diverse organisation including unconscious bias, diversity in the workplace, and managing diversity.

If you’ re interested in taking the steps toward a happier, more productive team, get in touch with us to find out more.

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