When it comes to the workplace, ensuring that diversity and inclusion are an important concern is vital. After all, everyone deserves to have their equal chance to excel and exceed in the workplace. Your gender, race, sexuality, and so on, shouldn’t matter, or be a barrier to success. This is important throughout organisations, from those who are just starting out, all the way up to the highest positions that an organisation offers. That’s where the idea of inclusive leadership comes in. But what is inclusive leadership exactly? What traits do active leaders have that help them behave in this way? What are the barriers to inclusive leadership? In today’s blog post, we’ll attempt to answer these questions and more.
It’s important that everyone has awareness of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, what is being done to tackle any issues that arise, and their company’s policy on it. Furthermore, there are various factors that go into ensuring that everyone feels included and heard in their workplaces. These factors include everything from the behaviour of their co-workers, to benefits such as inclusive healthcare policies. However, we would argue that it is leadership that can have the most profound effect. Most people have probably experienced a job where their bosses or higher-ups have made the role difficult- and this just exemplifies our point! Leadership is highly important. So:
What is inclusive leadership?
There are a few different approaches and thoughts on what inclusive leadership is. Enei defines inclusive leadership as:
“leaders who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. They see diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage and inspire diverse people to drive organisational and individual performance towards a shared vision.”
This sums it up. Inclusive leadership is leadership that makes a concentrated effort to be inclusive with everything they do. Inclusivity isn’t an afterthought, but it is in the very fabric of the leader’s decisions. An inclusive leader is one who appreciates other people’s points of view, but goes further than this. They know that people of different backgrounds will all bring unique points of view to the table, and all of these should be respected and taken into consideration. We can all learn a great deal from each other, after all!
As a result of this, inclusive leaders make better decisions, that reflect their whole organisation and the different backgrounds and viewpoints that are contained within it. But they don’t just respect these different backgrounds. They embrace them, and actively seek them out in order to better the organisation as a whole.
Inclusive leadership isn’t always inclusive in terms of the leader’s backgrounds themselves (although, it should be, and if this is not the case, this should be something to work on as a priority). In essence, they respect and celebrate diversity and inclusion in their organisation every step of the way, and use it to improve the organisation even further going forward.
What traits do inclusive leaders have?
As with everyone, leaders are diverse and all very different! That can make it hard to pin down exactly what traits inclusive leaders have. Having said that, there are some general traits and ways of thinking that definitely aid in inclusive leadership. These include:
Awareness of biases
Everyone has biases, whether they are aware of them or not. However, inclusive leaders are aware of their biases, and any that exist in the wider organisation as a whole, too. They then use this knowledge to adapt their strategies to minimise the impact these biases have, and work on them so that they are not a barrier to diversity and inclusion in the organisation.
Inclusive leaders are committed to diversity and inclusion in their organisation, visibly and fully. They don’t think that diversity is a ‘nice to have’ in the workplace. They actively work to champion it, and make sure that it is a reality at every step of the organisation. They’re not afraid to challenge the status quo, and other people, to ensure that diversity is championed and that their organisation is as inclusive as possible.
Culturally intelligent leaders
Inclusive leaders have a lot of cultural intelligence. This means that they are aware of others, their cultures, ways of living, and so on. They make an active effort to learn about diversity and how this can benefit them and the organisation. Furthermore, they adapt to other’s needs to ensure that the workplace is positive for everyone.
Any great leader should be a good listener. But what is inclusive leadership without great, active listening? Inclusive leaders listen to the concerns, experiences, and feelings of others. But they go further than this, and actually act upon what they are hearing to ensure that everyone, and the organisation, has the best experience possible.
Teamwork and collaboration
The best leaders know that teamwork and collaboration are the foundations of all business. Having said this, active leaders possibly value it even more than the average leader! They know that listening to lots of different viewpoints and letting everyone have their say is the best way to move forward, make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, and that an organisation is truly inclusive.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and there are many more traits that inclusive leaders have that can make them great. We think that our differences should be championed, and what works for one inclusive leader may not work for everyone- this is the beauty of a truly diverse and inclusive organisation!
What are the barriers to inclusive leadership?
So, we’ve answered the question of what is inclusive leadership in some detail. It seems that it should be something that every organisation should have, right? So, why is that not the reality? Some organisations are severely lacking in the inclusive leadership department. What are the barriers to making inclusive leadership a reality? Let’s take a look:
Outdated modes of thinking
While we may be in the twenty-first century, in some organisations, ways of thinking haven’t quite caught up! Unfortunately, many people haven’t got to grips with the idea of inclusive leadership yet. They don’t see the benefits of a more inclusive workplace and prefer to go on as they are. However, as diversity and inclusion in the workplace becomes more talked-about and prioritised, these ways of thinking and working are slowly changing, and inclusive leadership is being seen more and more.
Lack of knowledge
Going hand in hand with this is a lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, many people are still not aware of what exactly inclusion is, and what it means for their organisation. They may choose to purposefully ignore it because they like things the way they are, or they may simply not have been educated on the subject yet. Either way, a lack of knowledge and understanding about the subject across all levels of an organisation can definitely be a big barrier to inclusive leadership.
Insufficient training and resources
So, what is inclusive leadership needing? As we can see from the above points, it’s education! After all, people cannot implement it if they lack knowledge of what it is. However, many organisations lack the proper resources or training to give their teams this knowledge, meaning that inclusive leadership can never be fully implemented. To rectify this, more training programmes are needed, and diversity and inclusion need to be made a bigger priority in these organisations. It is a business basic, after all.
There are several barriers to implementing inclusive leadership. However, most of it comes down to a lack of knowledge. Once organisations are educated properly on inclusive leadership, they tend to want to embrace it, which is definitely a step in the right direction. There is more that can be done though, by individuals and organisations as a whole. We as individuals have a responsibility to pressurise our organisations into adopting inclusive leadership (if they do not already), as well as championing diversity and inclusion in the workplace as a whole where we can. Find out more about DiCE and what we’re doing for diversity and inclusion in the events industry below:
More about DiCE
Here at DiCE, we are dedicated to championing inclusive leadership wherever possible. But how do we contribute to ensuring that leadership is diverse? Beyond answering the question of what is inclusive leadership, we take several steps and approaches that help organisations of all sizes achieve it for themselves.
DiCE is the brainchild of Meena Chander, CEO and Founder of Events Together, a boutique events consultancy based near Milton Keynes.
Events Together helps organisations plan and deliver their events programme and produces their own Diversity and Inclusion Conference called This Is Us Conference yearly. Due to the success of this event, our founder realised that there was more work to be done. And, having faced discrimination herself in the workplace, DiCE was created. DiCE works with businesses, organisations and individuals from the local events industry and the wider business community. Our three main aims are: