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“Exclusive” leadership is hurting your bottom line

September 10, 2015

Have you ever felt excluded? Left out? Ignored? Disregarded? Or worse…shunned at work?

These may sound like weird questions to ask readers looking to learn about leadership development, but, if you stay with me, I’m going to explain how exclusionary leadership can wreak havoc on your team and your bottom line—and how easy it is to be unintentionally exclusive.

What is the impact of exclusion?

Recent research indicates that there is a predictable psychological reaction to exclusion. Science shows that exclusion is threatening and this causes normal defenses to kick in as well as feelings of withdrawal and the need to form alliances. Exclusion, it turns out, causes us to disengage with work, and is directly related to turnover. In the context of an organization, these behaviors are understandable, common and extremely negative. According to academic research, exclusion is more damaging, yet more acceptable, than outright harassment. Exclusion is common in today’s organizations. Humans are social animals, so exclusion—excluding an individual from a group—is often perceived as a form of punishment.

And the interesting thing is: I’ve never met a person in the business world who wants to exclude people. But I’ve met many who were unaware that they were excluding people who have a different outlook, interest, self-identity, perceived expertise, or simply are higher up the org chart than the people they work with. Science has proven that we are all biased. Nearly everyone finds they have unconscious stereotypes when they take the Harvard Implicit Association Test. But, that doesn’t mean it’s right. And studies also show that inclusive leaders get better results.

What is inclusion?

Organizational inclusion is a highly productive state where all employees feel welcome and accepted, especially members of underrepresented groups. Inclusive leadership is the goal, but the question is: How do you actually cultivate inclusive leadership when many people aren’t even aware that they’re being exclusive?

The answer is simple—the same way you cultivate good leadership—by developing leaders who are focused on results, capable of setting goals, holding people accountable, and being able to both deliver and receive feedback. Inclusive leaders, like all good leaders, understand themselves and model transparency and openness, and value others’ input. They also communicate and connect with others to accelerate development and performance and most importantly, build a culture where every member of the team is appreciated for his or her contribution and perspective.

While there is no magic formula to developing inclusive leaders, there are several methods that work.

So what are you doing to be more inclusive? Share your insights with us in the comments section.

Want to learn more? Join us for the Linkage Intensive on Leading Inclusively taking place in Chicago from September 15-17.

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