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Leadership Development

Key Characteristics of Inclusive Leadership in Organizations

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Horia Varlan // cc by 2.0 //

How do you Identify and Nurture Inclusive Leaders?

Leadership is about relationships. The nature of workplace relationships has dramatically shifted as we continue to evolve into diverse new markets, customer profiles, and ideas.

What does it mean to be an inclusive leader? Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. The recent tribulations of Uber, the ride-hailing company that has gone through a rash of complaints from employees and drivers, are a great example. One of the recommendations of an internal investigation and review – prior to the CEO resigning – was that the COO act as a full partner and assume responsibility for the organization.

Enlightened, brilliant leaders know that they personally don’t need to be the hero. They know that success--in changing markets, with savvy customers, in innovation, and in attracting and developing talent--requires a different style of leadership.

What does that different style of leadership look like? A recent report from Deloitte University Press distills inclusive leadership down the ability to:

Leverage connecting relationships and the diversity of the team and organization to make smarter decisions and have less risk of being blindsided by unexpected misalignment.

Just be fair with people and trust that they want to and are doing the right things. Don’t trust blindly, but appreciate the characteristics and strengths that individuals and groups bring to the table.

Value the uniqueness of others and see each individual on a personal level by genuinely wanting to learn more about them, being curious, and trying to have a greater understanding of what they do.

Here are some scenarios that can help you identify inclusive leaders – leaders that will be more successfully inclusive:

  • Solving problems: When a team member runs into a problem and asks for advice, an inclusive leader doesn’t provide the answer or even suggestions. Instead, that leader asks the team member what solutions he or she has in mind.

  • Enlisting others: When the leader has a new idea for a product or service but doesn’t know how to best approach it, an inclusive leader encourages the team to come up with ways to best implement the idea or even provide new ones.

  • Enabling others to act: When a team member comes up with a new idea and he or she is excited about it, an inclusive leader lets them try it. The inclusive leader will ask that person to keep them in the loop and work with him or her to create a compelling argument in favor of the project so that person can present the idea to others and the leader can have the knowledge to support the work.

  • Admitting failures: When something doesn’t work, the inclusive leader admits it didn’t work and collaborates with the team to find out what could have been done differently. Uber’s former CEO did this in his letter to his organization.

  • Recognizing contributions: When everyone talks about a great decision that was made and colleagues congratulate the leader’s work, the inclusive leader says “I can’t take all the credit – my team worked hard to make it happen and I’m really proud of them.”

As the world continues to evolve, inclusive leaders understand and value the uniqueness that every person brings to work, leveraging those relationships to collaborate on ideas and decisions. These leaders and their organizations will be more successful in the future. The inclusive leader is what the future needs….and what is needed today.

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Linda Dausend

Linda Dausend CPLP, is a senior consultant at FlashPoint. Linda collaborates with clients to unlock the power of great leaders within their organizations.