The business case for inclusive leadership

Inclusive Leadership
Inclusive Leadership

There’s a lot of talk about the value of having a diverse workforce, and that’s a good thing.

But having a wide range of individuals working in an organisation is only the starting point. ​

If your employees don’t feel listened to, valued and respected, you’re not reaping the benefits of their diverse perspectives.

So creating inclusive leadership naturally begins at the top.

Employee engagement with D&I

Inclusion is often considered as a separate initiative that focuses on social equality. But this is not the only focus.

According to HBR, what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included. ​

So your rationale for creating inclusive leadership may vary by organization. But generally, your decision for acting may be driven by one or more of these 3 factors:

  • Legal Case – we have to do this
  • Moral Case – we believe it is the right thing to do
  • Business Case – we believe it also makes a difference to the bottom line

A number of key business-challenges can be overcome much quicker with an inclusive workforce.

These include employee innovation, performance, and employee engagement.

The case for diversity and inclusion – Image copyright Elev-8 Performance

But inclusive leadership can take time

There is an overwhelming case for inclusive leadership but making the transformation to inclusion isn’t an overnight task. Here are 10 reasons why it takes time.

Conversation reluctance

Opening up conversations about inclusion can strike fear into many leaders’ hearts. There is a reluctance to hold what could be uncomfortable conversations.

Diversity is infinite

Differences are infinite. There are actually more differences within groups than between them.

Not a one size fits all

There is no blueprint for D&I. Whilst there is best practice to be learnt, tailoring a solution to your business and context is critical.

Backing the wrong horse

Unconscious bias cannot be ‘cured’ and training people the wrong way can often cause more damage than good.

Battling biology

We are hardwired to create ‘us and them’ divisions. Visual cues have a direct line to the fear system in our brain that we must work with.

The curse of the purse strings

People with influence are largely from majority groups. They may experience so-called self-enhancement bias and not be personally invested in making inclusion work.

Being aware is not being there

Over-focus on creating awareness rather than changing actual behaviour and ingrained culture won’t move things forward.

Insidious Stereotypes

False assumptions based on cultural stereotypes rather than empirical research have undermined current efforts to challenge leadership thinking.

‘Sigh’ at D&I

The topic of diversity and inclusion can sometimes provoke resistance from those who view it as a distraction or something lacking a commercial-basis.

Outcome obsession

There is a focus on the vanity metrics of inclusive leadership (e.g. statistics) and not on the organizational benefits of inclusive leadership (e.g a sense of psychological safety).

Inclusion is the answer

Irrespective of these possible barriers, what makes people feel feel included is the belief that they are lead by people who respect, value and champion their differences.

When people are led by leaders who ‘get this’, they will feel valued and believe that they belong.

Inclusive leadership is the way

For true inclusion, people must feel it’s OK have conversations about their specific needs.

If you think about it, the more your people feel included, the more they speak up, go the extra mile, and collaborate – all of which lifts organisational performance.​

Ultimately, driving Inclusive leadership in your business is all about getting the best from your people, isn’t it?

You start the ball rolling when your leaders embrace diversity and the wealth that inclusion brings.

What can you do to train and enable your managers to be inclusive leaders?

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