What are the Five Behaviours of Inclusive Leaders?

Inclusive leadership conference delegates

Teresa Norman, diversity consultant at EW Group and Challenge Consultancy, discusses inclusive leadership and the five core behaviours of inclusive leaders.

Let’s talk about leaders and leadership. The first thing to acknowledge is that it can be really difficult. A more prominent role is often more demanding than you realised when you were doing the brilliant work that enabled your promotion.

You will encounter in your team different attitudes to authority and people will work to different standards. You will be much more visible to anyone above you in the hierarchy. So, the level of scrutiny is now far more than you anticipated.

It is tough but we can help make it rewarding. You can make a difference to the people in your team, your organisation and beyond.

EW Group and Challenge Consultancy have been working with organisations and leaders to deliver inclusive leadership training for more than 35 years. We help businesses around the world integrate inclusivity leadership into their business to help it succeed. In this blog, you will find our model of 5 critical behaviours of inclusive leaders.

But firstly, what is inclusive leadership and why is it important?

What is inclusive leadership and why is it important?

Inclusive leadership is about supporting every employee with awareness and empathy and demonstrating high ethical standards.

There are numerous government statistics showing that an inclusive and diverse workplace performs better and contributes to diverse thinking and skillsets. A Harvard Business Review survey found that inclusive leaders who give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly 50% more likely to unleash value-driving insights, and employees who feel empowered to speak up are 3.5 times as likely to contribute their full innovative potential.

This equates to a number of tangible benefits right throughout the talent pipeline: from boosting engagement in existing staff groups to appealing to a wider range of candidates during recruitment.

Critical behaviours of inclusive leaders

Through our extensive work in this field, we have established 5 critical behaviours of inclusive leaders.

1. Visibility

First of all, this comes with the territory but you can shape this. Inclusive leaders are story-tellers and context shapers. Tell your team and others why diversity and inclusion matter to you. Demonstrate it in your everyday actions e.g. ensuring you use inclusive language, bringing in different voices, being curious about the experiences of others.

Of course, there are many examples of inclusive leaders who were great storytellers e.g. Martin Luther King, Malala Yousafzai and Barack Obama. No one expects your level of oratory to be at the level of MLK but your story does need to be personal to you.

2. Accountable

Every decision you make matters: who you give opportunities to, how you speak about people as well, of course, as your business decisions. To make good decisions, it helps if you are aware of unconscious bias, and that you set up a good decision- making process to mitigate it.

Above all, every position you recruit to will have a significant impact, so ensure that every new joiner not only is competent but also shares the organisation’s values. Inclusive recruitment is vital in ensuring you can attract a wide range of diverse candidates in order to find the most talented people.

3. Authentic

Honour everyone in your team by making sure that they have a voice, that their views are respected but also by giving them the feedback they need to succeed. Sometimes, this will be tough but not addressing issues only leads to more problems further down the line.  Think back to the feedback that helped you. You may have found it difficult at the time but perhaps, you are grateful for it now?

4. Role Model

It can be hard to accept that you are a role model, but this is part of leadership territory. What you do will shape what others do so you need to make sure any unwanted behaviours such as discrimination, bullying, and predatory behaviour are quickly addressed.

Tolerating any of these will lead to many more problems further down the line and can lead to a failing organisational culture. There are numerous examples in every sector where leaders have not been sufficiently robust and this led to very bad outcomes. The stories where it has been successfully dealt with, of course, do not tend to enter the public domain.

5. Transparent

Know your values, first of all, articulate them to yourself. Then, share them. As a leader, you will often encounter new scenarios where there is no precedent to follow. Your values will be your guide and by being clear on your values to your team, they will also be guided by them.

Transparency also involves being clear about the problems and issues your team is facing – this invites others into dialogue about how to address them.  Your job as a leader is not to have all the answers but to create an inclusive culture where people can share their insights and together you find the right solution.

Transparency also includes being clear what your diversity and inclusion challenges are – you can only address a problem when you know what it is!

The rewards of becoming an inclusive leader

This blog is very much a taster on the behaviours of inclusive leaders. Of course, behind each inclusive behaviour set out identified here is a much greater depth of thinking but we hope this has helped you think about the behaviours and values of an inclusive leader. It takes effort and thought to become an inclusive leader, but the rewards include:

  • A more effective and motivated team
  • Playing a key part in the development of others
  • Higher rates of diversity data disclosure among staff
  • Less turnover of staff
  • Better decision-making
  • Innovation
  • A workplace where staff are confident in reporting when standards are not being met so preventing unwanted behaviours from taking root

And all of this combined will make your leadership role exciting and help you gain your next promotion!

Find out how we can help develop inclusive leaders in your organisation

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