What Is Inclusive Leadership?
Inclusive leadership is a complicated topic. Leadership itself is multifaceted, and we’ve seen a change in leadership over time. Leadership used to be very focused on command-and-control. Then the concept of servant leadership came into vogue, where leadership was about service to the people that you were leading. I also love the concept of strength-based leadership, which is the notion of finding what drives each person and helping each person achieve their optimum potential within the team.
Inclusive leadership takes that one step further. It’s not just finding people’s individual strengths, but also creating an environment where everyone feels like they can bring their strengths to the table. And to be an inclusive leader, you must do that in a way that lifts everyone and empowers everyone to be who they are and to be “all in” at work.
Why Be an Inclusive Leader?
No one asks, “What are the advantages to being an exclusive leader?” Or, “What’s the business case for hiring someone who can only work with a narrow subset of employees and customers?” It would be preposterous. There is no good “business case” for ignoring talent or good ideas that come from people who don’t look like you. Similarly, there’s no business case for turning away paying customers with a different understanding of the world. And yet, those are exactly the impacts we have if we don’t actively seek to be inclusive as leaders.
Why Are Inclusive Leaders in Demand?
Current business trends include: diversity & inclusion; networking, especially via social media; increasing globalization; and the “gig” economy. The primary drivers for all of these trends are
- shifting workforce and consumer demographics
- rapidly advancing technology, and
- an increasingly global economy and workforce.
The result is that employers are competing to attract and retain the right talent for their organizations. At the same time, talented professionals are more diverse, more connected, and have more opportunities than ever before. Similarly, companies are competing for customers in emerging and niche markets all around the world, while consumers have greater access to both information and substitute goods and services. Acquiring talent is costly. Companies need leaders who know how to attract and retain talented individuals, no matter what they look like or where they come from.
Inclusive leadership requires self-reflection, patience, and vulnerability. It’s not easy and doesn’t happen overnight. The same can be said of nearly everything else that is worthwhile.
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