Okay, this is a bit of a trick question. There is no one definition of inclusive leadership.
We strongly believe that every organisation has to define what inclusive leadership means to them.
This might seem like a cop out, but it is true. Inclusive leadership is a broad term and everyone knows that it is important… in theory. But what we’ve found is that it means different things to different organisations. For organisations to truly embrace inclusive leadership, and to see the benefits of it, they first need to have clarity on what it is they are trying to achieve, and why.
Why it matters
The impact of inclusive leadership is far reaching – both for the individual and for the organisation. When employees perceive their leaders as fair and inclusive, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and be more productive. In fact, what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included. Inclusive leaders consider a wide range of viewpoints and experiences when making decisions, which can lead to better-informed and more well-rounded decisions. Plus, organisations with inclusive leadership are often better equipped to understand and serve a diverse customer or client base.
Once your organisation has identified the real reasons why inclusive leadership is important for them, it is time to start envisioning what a truly inclusive culture might look like.
The challenge faced by every organisation is how to create a more inclusive environment, where everyone feels heard and is able to thrive. Identifying leaders who actively promote and role model inclusive behaviour is a critical element of creating an inclusive culture.
However, every member of an organisation has a part to play in creating the culture. And one thing we truly believe is that anyone can be a leader – they just need to discover what kind of leader they are, be it a subject leader, thought leader, or leader of people.
Inclusive leadership behaviours
The behaviours we want to see from our inclusive leaders are prioritising diversity, equity, and inclusion; creating environments where all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, feel valued, respected, and heard. This is an essential part of what we call ‘human leadership’ – the practice of leading oneself and others in a way that empowers everyone to reach their full potential. And that means being aware of what people are bringing to the party.
Developing inclusive leaders
A lot of people make the mistake of jumping straight to teaching inclusive leadership. It’s easy when talking about development to swing with the pendulum and think ‘it’s all about inclusion’ and, while that is a critical aspect, at Ivy House we think holistically. Truly effective inclusive leaders are performance led, purpose led, and they think strategically; unless you have the right mindset and behavioural foundations in place – like taking 100% ownership and being a courageous learner – none of these things can be achieved.
Once this foundation of human leadership is in place, it becomes far easier to enhance leaders’ abilities to recognise and challenge biases, promote diverse talent, cultivate a culture of belonging, and effectively communicate across diverse teams.
Want to chat further? We’d love to talk.