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The Proof Is in the Data | The Inextricable Link Between Inclusive and Effective Leadership

January 29, 2020 Kristen Howe

In today’s increasingly complex and diverse workforce, where both the quality and quantity of leaders is declining, developing inclusive leaders is a business imperative. This week, I took to the stage at IQPC’s CHRO Exchange in Amelia Island, Florida where I was able to share some of Linkage’s latest research as it relates to inclusive and effective leadership.

We have analyzed three decades of research, including over 1 million data points from 360-degree leadership assessments, to determine what the most effective leaders do differently. What we found through this research is relevant to any organization that wants to develop the most effective leaders possible, while embracing a culture that feels inclusive to team members across every level.

More than 30 years ago, organizations began focusing on the importance of improving diversity and, slowly over the last decade, the importance of inclusion has also gained traction as a goal for organizations. At Linkage, we understood how vital an inclusive culture was to the overall success of an organization, and after completing our research, we were able to conclusively prove it.

Our research has found that inclusion is not discrete from effective leadership, and without being inclusive, leaders will not be effective. During my presentation, I highlighted the need for inclusive leadership by comparing it to Formula 1 racing. The focus is on the driver, the leader. While that role is critical, the driver also has a pit crew composed of multiple individuals supporting him. The success of the pit crew—and their ability to do their individual and collective jobs—is what can make or break a win across the finish line.

As in racing, the overall success of any team is reliant on more than one person. To be as effective as possible, we need everyone to have a seat at the table and use their collective skills to propel us across the finish line and toward success.

But how do we do this? Linkage has found that the best companies treat inclusion as part of—not separate from—leadership development, leadership measurement and leadership effectiveness. Effective leadership and inclusion, as understood by our data, are one and the same. They are both processes of organizing and structuring relationships, interactions and activities between people and the vision or goals they are trying to attain.

We also know that integral to inclusion is advancing women at an equal rate to men, but the formula for advancing women leaders starts with the organization. During my presentation I highlighted the four main areas organizations need to analyze to ensure an environment that supports parity: the culture, talent systems, executive support and leadership development opportunities for women.

We know that women have a unique set of hurdles they face in the workplace, and by addressing the four areas mentioned above, organizations are acknowledging these hurdles and making an effort to help their women scale them. The bottom line is this: purposeful, inclusive leaders engage and inspire women to overcome these hurdles, thereby actively working to create parity and a culture of inclusion.

When I presented our research, my hope was that it would leave the attendees of the CHRO Exchange with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement as they examined their own leadership journeys. In addition to sharing the knowledge gained from this research, I left with some major takeaways as well:

  • Diversity and Inclusion are top of mind priorities for organizations.  Hearing that from the attendees of this exchange reinforced the importance of the work we’re doing at Linkage to create cultures of inclusion.
  • There is a “war for talent” happening in the job market and organizations need to differentiate themselves to be an employer of choice in this market.
  • Employee engagement is more important than ever, and creating a positive employee experience in the workplace is critical to gaining and retaining talent.

The takeaways listed above further emphasized the importance surrounding our work to create cultures of inclusion at every organization. As we close out the first month of 2020, I challenge you to consider how you can be more inclusive, not only in your own professional role, but in your home and community as well. I can promise you, the new perspectives and ideas you gain will be invaluable.

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