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3 Inclusive Behaviors Every Leader Should Have
Organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion see big results: Teams are 17% more likely to report they are high-performing, and inclusive organizations develop more innovative products, increasing revenue by 19%.
Now is the time for leaders to fully embrace a new, inclusive leadership style. These inclusive leaders drive transformative change—giving their teams exactly what they need to thrive, even during times of challenge or transition.
Here are three inclusive leadership behaviors that leaders can adopt today:
1. Embrace a leadership style that is flexible and constantly evolving to meet changing needs.
When it comes to inclusive leadership, there’s no “one size fits all” solution. The most inclusive leaders are able to flex their leadership styles to meet the demand for what will help their team to succeed.
Inclusive leaders are, above all, focused on what will empower their team members to achieve at their highest potential, and that means understanding their unique needs, perspectives and superpowers in a way that allows them to thrive. Your go-to leadership style, which may have been successful with one type of direct report or team, may not fit the needs of a changing landscape and workforce.
In order to constantly evolve, you have to ask smart questions. Ask your team members: How can I support you in your role? What resources or support does the team need? Ask your leadership team: To what extent are we tapping into the unique ideas, talents, skills and abilities of our employees? If the answers surprise you, it’s time to reassess how your present leadership style impacts others and incorporate your team’s feedback to create a new, inclusive leadership style.
2. Do the hard work of self-educating and building self-awareness.
In recent years, more and more organizations have put emphasis on training and awareness around issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. As a leader, you have a responsibility to go beyond “check-the-box” exercises to understand these topics fully.
Inclusive leaders, especially those who are white and/or cis, must be “other” aware—meaning they understand that their teams are diverse and multifaceted. They can read a room well. They can instantly pick up on (and address!) the subtleties of microaggressions and passive aggressive behaviors—in themselves and in others.
Here’s what this type of inclusive leadership can look like:
You are leading a virtual meeting and have opened up the conversation for a brainstorm, but each time one of the few women in the room tries to contribute, she’s talked over. An inclusive leader can identify this phenomenon quickly, and in the moment—and inserts themselves as a moderator, calling on people specifically to share their comments and validating their contribution to the conversation. A deeply inclusive leader takes this another step—they seek out repeat offenders to explain how they should approach brainstorms with inclusion in mind. And, they host meetings with set agendas and carve out time for leaders from underrepresented groups to present and lead conversations.
3. Act quickly to eradicate power struggles—and create the culture of inclusion where all can thrive.
Inclusive leaders support a broad culture of inclusion at their organization, where all employees can achieve at the highest levels and feel valued and respected.
Leaders have a special responsibility to create the type of environment where a culture of inclusion can thrive, and the number one way they can do this is to cut down on the politics of power struggles in the workplace. When employees are unsure of their roles, responsibilities or goals, the mission of the organization is lost and the culture suffers, as employees jostle for attention or control.
Leaders can act decisively to set clear expectations for roles, teams, departments and the organization. Additionally, when power struggles emerge, it is often because employees are questioning their value. Make sure that as you set clear expectations, you also remind employees of why they are valued and make particular note of their ability to behave inclusively. When true clarity is achieved, employees can focus on their own development path in a way that is transparent, positive and forward focused.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
Inclusive organizations continue to rise to the top, and leaders have a responsibility to lead inclusively to build cultures of inclusion at their organizations. By adopting these three behaviors, leaders can begin to unlock the power of inclusive leadership.
Pamela J. Green is a collaboration, conflict resolution and coaching expert with more than 30 years of experience in leadership, having served as a supervisor, manager, director, chief executive, board chair and now president of Pamela J Green Solutions, LLC. Connect with her on LinkedIn or learn more on her website.
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