The words and actions of a leader can significantly impact whether others feel included. Diverse and inclusive work culture is vital to the performance and success of any business, but figuring out how to make your workplace inclusive so isn’t always an easy task.

Diverse thinking leaves room for new ideas and innovations, and inclusion occurs on individual, team and organizational levels. Becoming a more inclusive leader is a never-ending goal that can take you to new heights in the business world while improving your personal and work relationships.

Becoming an inclusive leader benefits you and your team because employees that feel welcome and accepted are more productive, engaged and invested. When you open the floor for open discussion, new ideas can fly around and create the foundation for innovative solutions that can propel your company through the business world.

What Is Inclusive Leadership?

Inclusive leadership theory involves showing a genuine interest in the success of others. Growth within your team will promote growth for your company. Creating an environment where everyone feels welcomed and accepted is vital to your business’s success.

Leading inclusively means recognizing your biases and actively seeking different perspectives despite them to make informed and effective decisions. Diversity drives business innovations. When all minds come together to discuss a challenge, they use individual and combined experiences to craft a unique solution.

Being an inclusive leader means having empathy for those you work with and collaborate alongside. Inclusive leadership impacts followers in a positive way. Inclusion increases:

  • The desire for people to join the team.
  • Organizational justice.
  • Psychological safety and capital.
  • Follower productivity.
  • Engagement and trustworthiness between the leader and follower.

Authentic leadership influences productivity, and employees invest themselves into the organization deeply. Businesses with this environment can expect to see an increase in revenue, better decision-making, effective responses to changes and overall improved productivity.

Benefits of Inclusive Leadership

There is a relationship between leadership and employee morale because leadership defines workplace culture. A high turnover rate, poor attendance and diminished productivity are all signs of low morale. Increasing good communication, giving praise, relinquishing power dynamics and accepting change are all things you can do to improve confidence and boost productivity while making employees feel more included and welcome.

When employees feel included, you can see an increase in creative thinking. Individuals are more likely to share their opinions and thoughts when they know their words will be recognized rather than ignored. The plethora of new ideas will spark exciting topics and bring new concepts to light.

Furthermore, inclusive leadership behaviors help the entire organization develop a welcoming and positive culture. Employees will follow the steps of a leader, and making it clear that diversity, new ideas and acceptance have a home in the workplace will aid them in adopting that mindset as well.

As the leader, you can expect to build deeper connections with your employees, recognize the importance of taking responsibility and develop a growth mindset that promotes healthy habits and benefits your individual and company goals. The mindset you develop will help in your personal life and relationships, making you a well-rounded and open-minded individual who people enjoy the company of.

Inclusivity for the Future

Only about half of the United States feel that their occupation provides them with a sense of identity, while the other half view it as a way to get by in life. Only 18% of U.S. workers view their job as a stepping stone for their career.

Creating an inclusive environment engages employees with the company culture. It lets them know they can find additional opportunities in their company regardless of their race, sexual orientation, identity or other characteristics. The result is less employee turnover and more workers exhibiting an increase in talent.

Additionally, the generations who are entering the workforce (or will be in a few years) identify diversity as being an essential factor when deciding on a place to work. Creating an inclusive environment will benefit those who currently work for you and make your company a desirable occupation for those who will soon be entering the workplace or are currently looking for a new job.

More than one in every three American workers are Millennials, and 44% of millennials are minorities. Creating a diverse and inclusive culture will help retain more employees who fall into this generation. Studies have found that diversity is important to this group when choosing an employer, and just under 40% have said they would leave their current workplace for a more inclusive one.

Attracting and retaining millennials and those in the generation after them will be vital in the next few years if you don’t already consider it so now. To engage with them, you have to create an environment where they feel welcome, accepted, respected and included.

The Qualities of an Inclusive Leader

If you’ve already become a leader, you understand some of the qualities you need to possess to be successful. Developing a leadership mindset involves accepting new challenges, being resourceful and decisive and focusing on the future. You can further develop most of these qualities to become an inclusive leader.

Your willingness to face new challenges will certainly come in handy throughout your journey. Meeting challenges head-on will allow you to continue pushing in the right direction. Actively seeking out new ways to include others and embrace the differences between you will enable you to find innovative solutions and help you come up with new ideas.

Resourcefulness can significantly impact your progress. Opening yourself up to different solutions and being mindful of the ideas of others will expose you to various paths. Considering different perspectives will open space for collaboration and encourage thoughtful discussions.

Furthermore, your focus on the future is a trait that will drive you to find success in your company. Similar to how you want to stay on top of trends and create the best product or service, you have to be willing to continuously focus your thoughts on creating a welcome environment.

Diversity is not a box to check off in your long list of to-dos. Rather, you must actively search for inclusive solutions and consider where your business will be in the future. You have to set goals for years ahead and continue pushing towards reaching them while setting new aims.

Additionally, you want to be open and honest about your intentions. Seeking to create a diverse and inclusive work culture should not be a well-kept secret or appear as though it’s for an ulterior motive. Making your team aware of the direction you’re moving in is vital because becoming an inclusive leader affects the entire company.

The steps you take and the mindset you develop will set a precedent for the rest of your team to follow. You can only become an inclusive leader when you actively support your team and your team actively supports you.

Although being “nice” might be an umbrella term for inclusive leaders, actively acting on inclusivity spans far beyond this. These leaders act intentionally, and the process takes effort.

Inclusive leadership traits include being:

  • Committed: Above all, inclusive leaders are committed to inclusion and diversity and take personal responsibility for change.
  • Empathetic: Inclusive leaders strive to understand and listen to the experiences of others and are compassionate to them.
  • Questioning: They are curious about other people’s lives and strive to understand their experiences. They actively listen without judgment.
  • Mindful of bias: These leaders recognize the flaws in the system and the blind spots in their own experiences and aim to create opportunities for others.
  • Humble: They welcome the insights of others and are humbled by their own capabilities.
  • Adaptable: Inclusive leaders are aware of other cultures and adapt to them as needed.
  • Collaborative: Through conversation and action, leaders create circumstances where diversity can thrive.

Arguably, the most important traits are commitment and recognizing your bias. While it’s true you can’t be an inclusive leader without recognizing bias and embracing differences, you also have to acknowledge that adapting to an inclusive leadership style is an ongoing process. You have to view inclusive leadership as a commitment you continuously value. You must always look to create new opportunities and encourage new discussions.

Becoming a More Inclusive Leader

Deciding how to take the steps to become a more inclusive leader can be a challenge. The good news is there is no right or wrong place to start, and coming up with solutions is a step in the right direction.

You could begin by creating an advisory board. You can gather the people you have a trusting relationship with and who you speak with frequently. These advisors can give you direct feedback about areas that need improvement or what you’ve been doing well to increase diversity. Letting others determine what you’re doing right will open the conversation and allow you to encourage discussion about company culture.

Sharing your goals with your team is also a way to start leading inclusively. You could decide to incorporate time in weekly team meetings to encourage team members to share moments when they felt included in the workplace or what they’ve recently learned about diversity. This sort of team-building will open your eyes to the experiences of your team and remind them of your company’s vision. You’ll begin to practice humility as you become more and more aware of cultural and individual differences.

Creating an inclusive team vision will let employees know you value their input. Defining your purpose, clarifying your values and making the vision memorable is a fantastic way to include team members. Keep the vision on everyone’s minds by advertising it everywhere you can.

Let your company know your intentions and the steps you plan to get there. Have them hold you accountable and take responsibility for your successes and shortcomings. Allow them to be an active part of making this difference and feel proud of the success you share.

Another active step you could take is to put yourself in new situations. Take the time out of your day to sit in an area you don’t typically frequent. Join your team for lunch or work side-by-side with employees you don’t often have the chance to work with. Initiate conversations and let them know that you value them and their ideas. You may not get the next new innovative idea from your first conversation, but you’ll pick up on new topics and start thinking from different perspectives.

Steps You Can Take to Be Inclusive

The steps you take to become more inclusive will make you a more trusted individual who seems more approachable by peers and coworkers. You’ll be able to show that you want and are willing to work with everyone, and your team will appreciate the sentiment.

Caring for your colleagues will help you become aware of their strengths and weaknesses and allow you to overcome those differences together. Identifying where you need to grow will help others do the same and inspire personal and company growth.

First, combat your unconscious bias by doing a leadership assessment. Completing this assessment will provide insights into your own bias and make you more self-aware. You’ll receive feedback to describe how you can begin to identify your blind spots and grow in your emotional intelligence.

When you complete a leadership assessment, you allow others to evaluate your effectiveness and identify areas where you need to improve your leadership. This is 360-feedback. 360-feedback involves allowing multiple people to assess your work so the collective feedback cancels out the unconscious bias of one person. The result is excellent feedback that you can apply to increase your self-awareness. That will enable you to plan the steps you need to take to create a more inclusive environment.

After taking a leadership assessment, consider these steps to becoming a more inclusive leader:

  1. Begin to recognize the need for a culture reset.
  2. Broaden the narrative to create a shared purpose.
  3. Create inclusive opportunities and reflect on capabilities.
  4. Employ middle managers to embark on the journey.
  5. Rewire practices and processes to spark change.
  6. Reinforce accountability with recognition and rewards.
  7. Work with enthusiasm to generate emotion.
  8. Establish a policy that allows employees to address concerns.
  9. Recognize diverse customers and employees.
  10. Make it a point to hear from everyone during meetings.
  11. Create a community goal for everyone to work towards together.
  12. Reward teams rather than individuals.
  13. Find conferences and training events to attend.
  14. Plan for fun company events for everyone to join.
  15. Create a birthday or recognition program.
  16. Search for consultants who can offer valuable insight.

Becoming a more inclusive leader is an ongoing process that doesn’t end. There will always be ways to increase diversity. Culture is ever-changing and inclusive leaders want to ensure that change is positive for their workers, company and themselves. The journey to inclusive leadership is not one you have to take alone. In fact, the more people who acknowledge and accept your ideas, the better.

Become a Well-Rounded Leader With Dame Leadership

Dame Leadership understands you have plenty of day-to-day responsibilities to manage as a leader. To navigate your high demands, you need trusted resources that will drive results.

Dame Leadership has over 20 years of experience helping leaders create welcoming environments where everyone feels accepted, and we are proud of our reputation for excellence and integrity.

Our solutions enable you and your company to grow, and we offer solutions to fit the needs of your business, your team or you. Our coaching services will provide you with resources to drive your vision and purpose forward. Our coaches can offer fully confidential advice to benefit operation needs, strategy planning, personal experience or team dynamics.

Explore Dame Leadership’s online or in-person coaching services to develop your leadership skills, or contact us to learn more about what we can do for you. We look forward to hearing from you.