Inclusive Leadership: How much of an Impact are you really making?

| Lisa Turner


Has inclusive leadership really become just another buzzword?

I’m sure you’ve heard about it, searched for it, or maybe you've even been required to take some training on it. Inclusion seems to be all the rage and so many companies are doing it, right? Yet, here we are in the midst of The Great Resignation, and we are still seeing reports of toxic work cultures, poor management, and communication breakdowns at work. So, what’s really going on?

Honestly, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Ultimately, the biggest issue is that most companies are not ACTIVELY working toward diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, which
are the crux of inclusive behaviors.


The key to Inclusive Leadership is (some serious) intentional action toward diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Even if companies are checking the boxes, so to speak, by implementing diversity training or posting a rainbow-themed logo on social platforms in June, that’s not enough to say they have
inclusive cultures. Ultimately, inclusive leadership means everyone (top to bottom) is not just talking the talk, but they are really walking the walk. This is when you begin to see the true
benefits of an inclusive culture.

Harvard Business Review explains that most leaders are not sure whether they're viewed as inclusive, and that they’re also unsure of what constitutes inclusive leadership behaviors. Unfortunately, it’s an all-or-nothing deal. Even if half of your peers/team members think that you’re exhibiting these behaviors, then you are missing some major opportunity.

What is really needed to be considered an inclusive leader?

To answer this question, it's helpful to understand the traits associated with inclusive leadership.

Deloitte research found that there are six traits that distinguish these types of leaders, and they are:

  1. Commitment to diversity and inclusion and not just at work, but because it is part of their personal values. Commitment includes challenging the status quo and taking action to make change happen.
  2. Courage to speak up and to invite others to contribute.
  3. Cognizance of bias. Individuals are aware of their own biases (everyone has bias) and seek out opportunities to appreciate differences and fix system flaws.
  4. Curiosity and an open mind to listen without judgment and seek to understand.
  5. Cultural intelligence. Individuals pay attention and are aware of others’ cultures and can adapt accordingly.
  6. Collaboration. Individuals who encourage brainstorming and empower others to work together toward more inclusive environments and opportunities for growth.

These six traits are so important that we used them as the foundation for our Inclusion 360° course — which teaches learners how to apply these power skills to everyday work and life.

The road to inclusion isn’t over yet. Next, you need to look within and do some detective work.

Ask team members, peers, and other colleagues for their honest feedback. Especially seek the opinions of those who are different from you and listen with an open mind.

Are people coming to you with a desire to collaborate and share ideas? Are you seeking out differences and are individuals from marginalized groups wanting to work with you to make a bigger impact?

Ultimately, those with a growth mindset who are consistently and consciously practicing the art of inclusion will make the biggest impact. And I encourage anyone reading this, regardless of title or status, to know that you have the ability to be an inclusive leader, to positively impact your work culture, and to find opportunities to bring together, learn from, and appreciate the many different and unique experiences and backgrounds of those in your work and personal networks.

What do you think? Are you an inclusive leader or do you have some room to grow?