Inclusive Leadership—The New Norm

Written By Hanis Sofea Zulkifli

On August 26, 2020

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Inclusivity—what is it that makes people feel included in big groups or organisations? Fair and respectful treatments? Equal pay? The list is never-ending but it all comes down to the leader. Just like how a leader can make or break a team, they can also eliminate or shed more light on inclusivity.

What is inclusive leadership?

It’s easy to assume that just by hiring diverse employees the company has done its part in ensuring inclusivity, but that is not at all what inclusive leadership is about. In some cases, diverse groups of employees have trouble understanding each other and cannot truly benefit from this diversity. Without a leader to help communicate through the differences, this problem will keep arising

An inclusive leader is someone who creates a safe and open environment for diverse perspectives to be heard and understood. Not only do they understand how different thinkers react to a certain situation, but they also empathise and create conditions for new insights to emerge.

Why do we need more inclusive leaders?

In this day and age where diversity, a current hot topic, is respected and taken seriously, an inclusive leader is just what every company needs. Having someone with humility, visible commitment, and is overall empowering are all key elements of inclusive leadership. Being inclusive is not as easy as it sounds. Companies are increasingly relying on diversity in the workplace (different genders, age gaps, cultures and religions) and it mostly falls under the wings of a leader to ensure that they are treating their employees fairly. 

Research has found that inclusivity in the workplace enhances work performance. Teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to generate high performance, 20% are more likely to make high-quality decisions, and 29% are more likely to behave collaboratively. Not to mention, there is a 10% improvement in attendance among employees. As a leader, you need to take into account intentional opportunities for innovation and collaboration, rely on data and thinking preferences, design teams that are creatively optimised, and set them all for success. It is a complex process but it all starts with giving the team a “voice”.

It is important for a leader to be as inclusive as possible towards all their team members, and the easiest way is to listen to them. However, listening alone is not enough; inclusive leaders empathise and create a culture that accepts and values different opinions.

How to become one?

There are plenty of factors to look into if you want to become an inclusive leader. Here are some basic starting points for you to practice:

#1 Get Educated

Never shy away from asking questions, it’s the only way to learn and grow! However, as a leader, be mindful not to burden your employees with too many questions. What you can do, instead, is to do your research. Read more books or articles on inclusive leadership and familiarise yourself with the concept.

#2 Seek Feedback

Being a leader does not mean you cannot learn from your employees or team members. Learning how to accept feedback from your team is a great way to become a better and more inclusive leader. Not only can you find your blind spots and determine your strengths and weaknesses, but seeking feedback from your staff can also help them feel valued.

#3 Check Your Impact

Self-reflect. Look at your surroundings and see for yourself if your actions generated more positive or negative impacts. Ask yourself if people can cope with your methods and if they are comfortable enough to share their ideas with you. Reflect on how your management style might affect the team’s productivity and inclusivity.

#4 Spend More Time with Diverse Communities

How else are you going to learn the different ways of thinking without putting yourself in their shoes? Challenge yourself to adapt to different upbringings and ways of thinking by assimilating. A diverse team works better so why not shift your focus into being as inclusive as you can? You can’t learn much if you’re stuck in the same comfort zone—there is simply no room for improvement.

#5 Be Visible and Vocal

It’s good that you know just how important being an inclusive leader is, but it is even better if you can help more people to be aware of this new norm. As a good leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are not the only one to make an effort to be more inclusive. Invite your colleagues, team members, and business leaders to follow suit. Use your platform to make a difference and showcase to others that just about anyone can become an inclusive leader.

If you want to know more about inclusivity in the workplace, get on a 15 mins call with our lead Client Success specialist now.

Have a specific topic that you would like us to talk about? Let us know below!

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