Capturing the Value of Inclusive Leadership

September 23, 2021 Oak Street Funding

Value of Inclusive Leadership

Throughout recent years, business owners and managers have encountered a long list of buzzwords from Human Resource professionals that appeared and then faded, so we can't fault owners and managers if they initially see the extensive discussion of diversity and inclusion as the flavor of the day. But the emphasis on inclusion isn’t a passing fad and the benefits are significant. According to Sarah Turner, Executive Coach and EQ expert, an organization with greater than average gender diversity is 58% more successful than a similar organization with less than average diversity. Clearly, the benefits of inclusivity are significant, and leaders should not ignore its value.

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What is the difference between diversity and inclusivity?

Though commonly used synonymously, diversity and inclusivity are not the same. Diversity means there is variety in the demographics of a group. Promoting diversity is an excellent first step to a healthier organization, but the next, more important level is inclusivity. Inclusivity is recognition that two people who share similar demographics have different experiences, backgrounds, and opinions and that those differences are valuable.


What is an inclusive leader?

An inclusive leader first strives to build emotional intelligence in themselves and their team. According to Sarah Turner, “One of the skills though that's important to create an emotionally intelligent team is the skill of empathy. There's not going to be ever a skill probably more important that an individual or a team needs to display to create inclusion and unleashed diversity.” Empathy is the ability to recognize that other people view life through a different lens. An inclusive leader is curious about the preferences and perspectives of their team.

Secondly, an inclusive leader has a growth mindset. This mindset permeates every aspect of an inclusive organization. A willingness to grow is foundational to inclusivity because both depend on learning new things. An inclusive leader must be willing to learn sometimes difficult things about themselves on the journey to greater growth. They aren’t afraid to give attention to perspectives that challenge their own ideas in order to give a voice to the underrepresented.

The power of inclusive leadership

Inclusive leadership is necessary to changing the culture in a business and embracing innovation. Leaders who practice inclusive leadership encourage diverse ideas and thinking. They're also able to communicate those new ideas in ways that promote their teams to embrace change. Without this culture shift, creative ideas are destined to fail as they encounter organizational attitudes and processes that are resistant to change.

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Becoming a more inclusive leader

Inclusion is less about a series of steps and more about a shift in attitudes. An inclusive leader recognizes, embraces, and celebrates the advantages diversity offers. While finding more diverse team members, both demographically and in thinking, is undoubtedly an aspect, what's even more critical is ensuring that everyone on the team is heard, respected, and treated fairly. This movement begins with a leader who is willing to challenge their strongly held beliefs and stay curious about others.


Understand your biases

It’s also critical for leaders to recognize and understand their own unconscious biases. We all bring our attitudes and experiences to situations. While that isn’t inherently bad, we need to recognize how those biases affect how we consider and respond to other people who are different from us, so we don't give in to false judgments like stereotypes. The more we expose ourselves to others from different cultures who have had experiences unlike ours, the better we become at understanding and appreciating other people.


Address all levels

Successfully pivoting businesses to implement a growth mindset demands a commitment from top leadership that must be woven through the actions of managers at all levels. Unfortunately, a Gallup study found that 45% of U.S. workers experienced some form of discrimination or harassment in the past 12 months. Another study showed that only 38% of organizations embed the concept of a growth mindset in four or more areas: hiring, onboarding, employee experience, and coaching. In order for organizations to create a safe and inclusive environment for employees, the leaders at all levels must intentionally focus on a growth mindset in the four areas below.

  1. Hiring – in the interview process, leaders should ask questions to determine if candidates have a growth mindset. To build an inclusive culture, it is important to bring in individuals with a foundational growth mindset
  2. Onboarding – Once an employee joins the organization, leaders should begin to train them on what a growth mindset is and looks like within the organization.
  3. Performance metrics – Do your performance metrics include a measurement of growth mindset development? Leaders should be giving feedback and guidance to help employees develop their growth mindset. Employees should be aware of the vision and how they can contribute to it.
  4. Coaching – “There are so many layers of how you can embed a growth mindset, but it has to be not only said and targeted, but it also has to be felt. It has to be real,” said Sarah Turner. Coaching is more than making sure employees meet certain metrics or answer particular questions correctly. Great coaches empower their teams and lead the way to inclusivity with their actions and reactions.

Finally, don’t fall prey to the idea that being an inclusive leader means everyone in your organization is the same and should be treated the same way. Instead, focus on the potential everyone brings to the company’s needs and help them realize that potential. As they succeed, so will your business.

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Disclaimer: Please note, Oak Street Funding does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not a statement of fact or recommendation, does not constitute an offer for a loan, professional or legal or tax advice or legal opinion and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining valuation services or professional, legal or tax advice.

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