Adopting an inclusive leadership style benefits individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole. Research by Deloitte has found that leaders who create an inclusive culture for their teams see a 17 percent increase in performance, a 20 percent boost in decision-making quality, and a 29 percent better collaboration. Inclusive leadership respects and values individual differences in work styles, learning, ideas, and communication, and leverages those differences for the benefit of the team and organization. Here are four strategies for becoming a more effective leader by focusing on inclusion.
1. Treat people fairly
When you recognize the traits, experiences, and working styles that make each person unique, you allow employees to bring their full selves to work for the benefit of the team. Inclusive leaders recognize individual differences and treat others fairly in light of those differences. Research shows that fairness is highly valued by employees and helps to build their engagement at work. A survey of full-time employees found that after fair compensation, “treating the workforce fairly” was named the second-most important workplace attribute.
It’s important to note that treating people fairly doesn’t mean treating everyone the same. Inclusive leaders assess individual strengths and preferences and strive to align each individual with the role and work that best fits their knowledge and skills. For example, individuals who bring an analytical skillset may be better matched to certain projects than those who are more creatively inclined. Leaders who take an inclusive approach also offer individuals on the team equal opportunities for growth to ensure they have chances to learn and develop their skills.
2. Encourage communication and collaboration
Recognizing the benefits of having a variety of perspectives on a team is at the core of inclusive leadership. Inclusive leaders pull individuals together to share their ideas, knowledge, and experiences, making sure that everyone has the chance to contribute. Some of the ways you can practice more inclusive communication and collaboration include:
- Asking for input from individuals who are new to a topic or seem apprehensive to speak up in meetings.
- Encouraging cross-team collaboration on key projects.
- Leading by example and frequently demonstrating teamwork with leaders in other departments or functions.
3. Use cultural and emotional intelligence
Inclusive leaders recognize that not everyone sees problems and opportunities through the same lens, nor do all individuals manage their emotions in the same way. Leading a team requires developing a sensitivity to the ways that individuals respond to different leadership styles. One individual on the team may appreciate it when a leader spends time listening to their frustrations, while another may look to the leader for a motivating pep talk. Developing strong emotional agility will enable you to use different leadership strategies to motivate and support each person on the team.
4. Seek continuous learning
Part of being an effective leader is being committed to your own learning and growth. At the same time that new ways of working are introduced in the workplace, so too are new ways of thinking, communicating, and collaborating. Inclusive leaders recognize that no one has all the answers and that it’s necessary to seek out opportunities to sharpen their leadership skills, as well as the skills and knowledge of everyone on the team. Examples of how to demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning include:
- Being willing to learn from feedback and work to achieve a better outcome after a failure.
- Seeking to overcome biases and outdated beliefs.
- Engaging in ongoing training and development opportunities.
Inclusive leadership helps to ensure the organization realizes the full benefit of different perspectives and ways of working. Without it, employees can miss opportunities to grow and perform to their potential. When leaders have the desire and capability to be more inclusive, the whole team is positioned for greater success and healthier team culture.