March 24, 2016

Why should your business encourage inclusive leaders?

Command and control is a leadership style that we all recognise but one that is increasingly outdated. Yes, we will always have leaders and organisations that gravitate towards the command and control method, but increasing numbers are moving away from that approach.

These days, it is more about inclusive leadership, an approach that allows individuals and businesses to be more agile and encourages diversity. New research commissioned by the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei) explores what inclusive leadership looks like, the benefits and how prevalent it really is.

Called ‘Inclusive Leadership…driving performance through diversity!’ the research explored several areas: organisations’ understanding of what inclusive leadership means, the perception of its practice in 11 participating organisations, links between the perception of inclusive leadership and self-ratings on performance, productivity, satisfaction and well being.

As a result of the study, enei issued a definition of what constitutes an inclusive leader. It is this: ‘Leaders who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. They see diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage and inspire diverse people to drive organisational and individual performance towards a shared vision’.

The report says a new model of inclusive leadership has emerged and highlighted 15 competencies that characterise inclusive leaders. These are:

1. Individualised consideration. Showing individual interest and offering one-to-one support for people
2. Idealised influence. Providing an appealing vision that inspires others
3. Inspirational Motivation. Encouraging others to develop ideas and to be challenging
4. Intellectual stimulation. Encouraging creative thinking
5. Unqualified acceptance. Showing acceptance of everyone without bias
6. Empathy. Being able to appreciate the perspective of others and endeavouring to understand how others feel
7. Listening. Truly listening to the opinions of others
8. Persuasion. Having an influence on people’s actions without force or coercion
9. Confidence building. Providing positive feedback to boost people’s self-efficacy
10. Growth. Providing opportunities for all employees to realise potential, make autonomous and unique contributions and progress with the organisation
11. Foresight. Being able to consider the views of others about possible outcomes
12. Conceptualisation. Being able to focus on how employees contribute to long-term objectives
13. Awareness. Having self-awareness of how preconceived views can influence behaviour towards others
14. Stewardship. Showing a commitment to leading by serving others for the good of everyone rather than for self-gain
15. Healing. Showing a respect for the wellbeing of all employees.

All 15 competencies need to be present in order for someone to be an inclusive leader. The report also says that inclusive leaders tend to have a very holistic approach to leadership with a deep rooted desire to lead through forming strong, interpersonal relationships with people.

The next question that the report asked was what individuals and organisations think of inclusive leadership. Do people like working with inclusive leaders? The answer was a resounding yes. People working with inclusive leaders reported higher levels of productivity, satisfaction and engagement than those working with non-inclusive leaders.

Not only do people prefer working with inclusive leaders, but they also think it is good for organisational success, according to the report. Specific benefits are mentioned:

– enhanced performance and productivity
– enhanced loyalty
– the advance of under-represented groups
– enhanced creativity
– better services to clients, customers and service users
– better teamwork
– motivation to go the extra mile
– higher retention
– diverse talent pool