What Is Inclusive Leadership? (With Definition and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 15, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Diversity is a core value for many companies and businesses in today's global workplace. Inclusive leadership is often key to encouraging and maintaining a diverse team comprised of varying ideas, views, and approaches. Learning more about inclusivity in the workplace can help you improve your leadership skills. In this article, we define inclusive leadership, explore its key traits, discuss tips for demonstrating this type of leadership, and explain how to improve your leadership skills.

What is inclusive leadership?

Inclusive leadership includes qualities that oppose inequality, prejudice, and favouritism based on race, ethnicity, and other protected characteristics. This style of leadership values individual team members, encouraging different perspectives and creating an atmosphere where people feel they can contribute to the company's overall well-being. Inclusive leaders typically inspire and motivate teams toward individual and collective achievement.

They often use the different ideas, experiences, attitudes, and viewpoints of their teams to the advantage of their organizations. Businesses that hire inclusive leaders are often more likely to recruit and keep highly skilled individuals, create innovative solutions, and identify methods that appeal to and benefit various client markets.

Related: How to Promote Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace

Top traits of inclusive leaders

Inclusive leaders typically possess soft skills that help them achieve success with an inclusive management style. Some of their attributes include the following:

Bias awareness

Inclusive leaders are often conscious of their own preferences and prejudices. They try to incorporate the viewpoints of individuals from diverse backgrounds to increase their understanding of other people's perceptions and strengthen the brand's message and positioning. This understanding may result in managers and team leaders who actively listen to their teams and support varied ideas and ways of thinking.

Equality

As an exclusive leader, you can foster workplace impartiality by prioritizing it in company choices and interactions. These actions can impact the attitude of others by setting a good example and acting mindfully. Examples include promoting equality in an organization's stated objectives and vision, adopting inclusive recruiting processes, and helping team members achieve their full potential.

Active listening

Inclusive leaders typically focus on listening to team members to get feedback and ideas from all project participants. This trait allows you to gather insightful information to improve decision-making processes. Active listening is important for this leadership type, as it helps to involve people in conversations that may improve workplace operations.

Curiosity

An inclusive leader often focuses on motivating, guiding, and encouraging others. By promoting a culture of curiosity, you can inspire employees and team members to find creative and innovative solutions. Curiosity encourages participation and cooperation as curious individuals may make better decisions, enhance their company's performance, and help it adapt to unpredictable market circumstances and external challenges.

Constructive feedback

Providing comments, suggesting techniques for development, or introducing a new plan for your team to use in their work are examples of how this type of leadership incorporates constructive feedback. It's equally important to encourage team members to express their ideas. Giving and inviting constructive feedback may help you discover ways to enhance your leadership approach and introduce new management strategies.

Related: How to Boost Employee Morale and How It Affects Employees

Effective communication

Effective communication involves exchanging information and ideas in an efficient and effective manner. Inclusive leaders work hard to explain information in a way that prioritizes clarity and accessibility. For instance, during a meeting, an inclusive leader may open conversations, emphasize key issues, invite participation from team members, and clarify any misunderstandings that arise.

Compassion and empathy

Inclusive leaders also tend to be empathic and actively seek to understand the viewpoints, emotions, and ideas of others. This approach to communicating and collaborating with others enables you to evaluate an issue, assignment, or other work procedure before making a decision or implementing a significant modification to a project, task, or process. This also helps you to be adaptable to the team members' needs.

Creativity

This leadership type characterizes the ability to think creatively and encourage others to provide unique and innovative ideas. Inclusive leaders are more inclined to invite feedback and adopt innovative approaches to new initiatives or tasks. They may also be more likely to accept their employees' mistakes and invite their participation in creative conversations.

Teamwork

When leading and managing a group of professionals, inclusive leadership prioritizes teamwork and cooperation. In addition to leading, delegating, and directing their team, an inclusive leader may be an integral team member. An inclusive workplace encourages all individuals to have equal representation, leading to the development of effective groups led by positive role models.

Trust

Delegation is important for inclusive leaders. When leaders have faith in their team's ability to execute tasks, it increases morale and fosters mutual respect. By being truthful during challenging times, inclusive leaders build trust within the team, which helps the business operate with integrity. Task delegation is another approach to showing confidence. A competent leader has confidence in their employees' abilities and believes they can take on additional responsibilities.

Cultural awareness

Inclusive leaders are likely to recognize and appreciate the cultural variety of their teams. This is important for recruiting strong talent, developing creative solutions, and approaching work with fresh perspectives. Cultural understanding helps you identify and adapt to the cultural customs of team members and empathize with and understand the importance of cultural backgrounds.

Tips for demonstrating inclusive leadership

If you want to develop your inclusive leadership style, consider the following tips:

  • Be open and honest: Try to reflect on any biases or assumptions you have and endeavour to remain open in your interactions with others.

  • Be positive: Consider maintaining a positive outlook during discussions, team meetings, and conversations to promote inclusive behaviour and attitudes.

  • Engage others: It's helpful to engage team members and motivate them to feel confident and comfortable when giving input and feedback.

  • Create inclusive environments: You can create ways for your team to learn about each other's differences, cultural experiences, and perspectives to foster an inclusive environment where everyone can provide insight and ideas.

  • Provide feedback: You may want to provide feedback to educate your team as a group and individually so they can develop more inclusive behaviours and methods of working.

  • Accept your vulnerabilities: To set an example for others to follow, consider accepting your vulnerabilities. This approach helps acknowledge your weaknesses and areas for improvement and ask others for input.

  • Find a mentor: Just as you support your team members, you can find support through a mentor who is experienced in managing diverse teams. Consider asking another manager or a friend you respect and emulate their leadership behaviours and skills.

Related: How to Become a Good Leader: 5 Levels of Leadership Explained

How to improve your leadership skills

Improving interpersonal skills is more challenging than increasing technical ability. Time and determination can help you improve your leadership skills. Here are some suggestions for enhancing your leadership abilities and skills:

1. Identify your style of leadership

Although you may use a variety of leadership styles depending on the situation, it might be useful to outline how you want to lead your team, projects, and meetings. Many professionals build their leadership style on criteria such as experience, personality, and the specific demands and organizational culture of the business.

2. Identify your strengths and areas for improvement

Consider which attributes you currently possess and which ones may benefit from development. Asking dependable colleagues or mentors for professional comments might help you find areas you missed. Self-assessments can also teach you how to use your talents and shortcomings to your own, your colleagues, and your workplace's advantage.

3. Find a mentor

Identify an individual whose leadership qualities you admire and whose actions you want to emulate. Consider someone from your background who served as a role model, such as a teacher, coach, or more experienced professional. Ask them to be your mentor or look for a mentor in a field that interests you and try to learn from them. You may discover mentors in your community, through friends and family, or on professional networking sites by searching for more experienced individuals or alumni.

4. Be patient

Inclusive leadership is something that you can develop with experience. Being patient and encouraging constructive criticism can help you improve as a leader. You can also find opportunities to develop your leadership skills outside the workplace by joining a professional organization, volunteering, or acting as a hobby or social group leader.

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