Inclusive leadership is the key to building employee trust and goodwill.
Deloitte recently studied the opinions of millennial and generation Z workers, defined as people born between 1983 and 1999. They found that survey respondents overwhelmingly believe that profits alone don’t make a successful business. Respondents pointed to additional priorities—including “an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
At the same time, roughly two-thirds of participants from both generations believe that business leaders “simply pay ‘lip service’ to diversity and inclusion.”
Employees’ trust must be earned. To build a truly inclusive workplace, leaders need to show personal commitment and take responsibility for making it happen.
So what does inclusive leadership look like? And how can you practice it? We’ve got some tips.
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Inclusive leaders are open to change. They genuinely care about their employees as people. And they respect and welcome differences.
“For a long time, the workplace mantra was to minimize your personal life, to leave whatever it is at the door,” says Ashley Oolman, a disability inclusion consultant whose clients range from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses to school districts. “Now the mantra is to bring your best self, your whole self, to work.”
Inclusive leadership can help employees feel comfortable doing this. Deloitte has identified six inclusive leadership traits for business leaders to work toward:
1. Commitment to improve diversity and inclusion.
2. Courage to admit you don’t have all the answers on what needs to change or how to change it.
3. Awareness of bias as an individual and as an organization.
4. Curiosity and openness to different ideas and perspectives.
5. Cultural intelligence and confidence to lead cross-cultural teams.
6. Collaboration that empowers people to challenge and build on each other’s ideas.
Inclusion consultant Felicity Menzies recommends framing an action plan around inclusive leadership traits.
The action plan might include commitments such as:
“Courage to admit mistakes and show humility can be one of the hardest traits for some executives to develop,” says Oolman. “It is human nature to feel defensive or to feel defeated if you’re uncertain about next steps.”
“But inclusive leadership in its most successful form is about constant questioning,” says Oolman. “Challenge your own decisions. Recognize that even if you’re the most senior person in the room, you might not have the best solution in the room.”