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Linkage’s Latest Research Proves the Most Effective Leaders Are the Most Inclusive Leaders

February 25, 2020 Jennifer McCollum

At Linkage, we strive to not only accelerate Purposeful Leaders, but to create inclusive cultures at global organizations. Increasing the level of diversity has become a revitalized priority for many organizations over the past few decades, but fostering cultures of inclusion has not yet gained as much traction. 

You may ask, “What’s the difference?”

Diversity alone does not automatically create inclusion. 

While diversity is the presence of many types of people of different backgrounds, inclusion is about creating a sense of belonging, connection, participation and fully realized contribution for all members of an organization. 

This week, I tackled this important topic onstage at the IQPC CLO Exchange in Austin, TX. 

Creating and promoting a culture of inclusion is not easy—and it takes far more than getting the right mix of people together. We must achieve diversity first, and then we can foster a true sense of inclusion over time.  

Linkage’s latest whitepaper, “Why the Most Effective Leaders Are Also the Most Inclusive Leaders,” answers the critical question that had been bubbling in our data for some time: What is the role of inclusion in leadership effectiveness? And we are now able to prove a direct correlation between inclusive behaviors and leadership effectiveness

Linkage studied the specific behaviors in our 360˚ assessments that map to inclusive leadership. We examined data from nearly 19,000 assessments evaluating nearly 1,200 leaders. Here’s what we found: The most effective leaders are also the most inclusive, and leaders who are not inclusive will not be effective.  

Companies that have been able to increase diversity and inclusion across all levels find they are not “nice to haves”—but imperatives.

Cultures of inclusion provide tangible benefits, including: 

  • The organization will develop products that are more likely to appeal to a more diverse and global customer base.[1]
  • The organization will develop more innovative products, increasing revenue by almost 19 percent.[2]
  • Employees are more engaged; for example, employees who are able to bring their whole selves to work are 42 percent less likely to say they intend to leave their job within a year.[3]
  • Teams are 17 percent more likely to report they are high performing, 20 percent more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29 percent more likely to report behaving collaboratively.[4]

The benefits of creating cultures of inclusion are clear. So, how do organizations take meaningful steps to achieve an environment where all voices are brought to the table?  

Here are some important steps to take:

  1. Divorce diversity from inclusion. They are equal challenges and require different strategies.
  2. Present inclusion as a solution, not a problem. Inclusion is not a challenge that companies must solve for, but an opportunity. Organizations should put inclusion at the center of their leadership development strategy.
  3. Consider a leader’s inclusivity maturity in leadership development metrics and measure inclusion of your leaders at the individual and organizational level.
  4. Support the transition to inclusivity-focused leadership development with executive commitment and action, performance management and reward, and a change in corporate culture.

I hope the insights in this research will help you build the case for inclusion in your organization. We know it leads to not only better business outcomes, but also a better world. 


[1] Angela Hood, “Slow to Embrace Diversity in the Workplace? It’s Probably Affecting Business,” Fast Company, July 16, 2019,
[2] “How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation,” Boston Consulting Group, January 23, 2018,
[3] Laura Sherbin and Ripa Rashid, “Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion,” HBR, February 1, 2017,
[4] Juliet Bourke and Andrea Espedido, “Why Inclusive Leaders Are Good for Organizations, and How to Become One,” HBR, March 29, 2019,

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