Inclusive leadership capability

Deloitte's definition of Inclusive Leadership is 'treating people and groups fairly; personalizing individuals; and leveraging the thinking of diverse groups for smarter ideation and decision making that reduces the risk of being blindsided'.

Employer recommendations

Overall tips

  • Define the organisation's expectations around Inclusive Leadership traits. The traits of an inclusive leader vary depending on the model of Inclusive Leadership adopted - some models include Deloitte's Six signature traits of inclusive leadership; Catalyst Six Core Behaviours, Vercida Consulting's Seven Core Traits and Korn Ferry's five disciplines of an inclusive leader.
  • Make the requirement to be an Inclusive Leader a core element of people management.
  • Set the 'tone from the top' with visible commitment to Inclusive Leadership from the CEO and top executives. Senior executives need to take every opportunity to get the message across using external and internal comms channels including leadership meetings, all employee business updates, town halls, fireside chats and one-to-ones so that mid-level people managers understand the importance of Inclusive Leadership and their role in creating an inclusive culture.
  • Build Inclusive Leadership competencies into everything e.g. job descriptions, onboarding communications, performance management, people leadership, assessing talent and readiness for promotion, learning and development resources, recognition and reward etc. Refer to section 2.2 in the Creating An Inclusive Culture report from Corporate Research Forum. At HS2, inclusion is treated as a competency and is weaved through HS2’s leadership framework. This is a resource containing Interview questions to assess capability around inclusion.
  • Dispel the merit myth to engage managers and leaders who can't see a need for a focus on Inclusive Leadership and/or DEI. Two ways to dispel the merit myth include using workforce data e.g. showing aggregated progression or attrition data to showing the 'facts' in relation to underrepresented groups; and by showcasing real-life stories of employees who have suffered from bias, harassment or discrimination to evoke empathy. 'Privilege is typically invisible to those who have it and many leaders believe that success is a level playing field. Leader blind spots mean that leaders typically underestimate the effect of bias at work and others’ experiences of inequity and exclusion—they cannot ‘see’ barriers to inclusion facing diverse talent because they do not experience those barriers themselves', says Felicity Menzies.
  • Embed bias mitigation efforts into existing processes to sustain behaviour change. Safeguard against human biases by making tweaks to processes that nudge people away from unintentional biases and prompt inclusive behaviour, rather than assuming training will be sufficient.

Tips for Inclusive Leadership development programmes

  • When delivering Inclusive Leadership education/development programmes, aim for participants to:
    • Reflect on their own biases
    • Learn how to foster open and positive discussions with colleagues
    • Learn how to encourage team members to open up
    • Learn how to adopt the Platinum Rule: ‘treat others how they want to be treated’
    • Learn how to deliver and receive constructive feedback
    • Learn practical actions to strengthen the experience of belonging for others
  • Provide different learning options for Inclusive Leadership education and development to upskill people managers and leaders to lead difference and foster inclusion. Consider providing bite-sized pieces of content with multiple learning offerings.🔦 Korn Ferry and Catalyst offer free interactive quizzes participants may wish to take before commencing an education programme.
  • Incorporate the lived experiences of employees into education and development programmes. Leaders and people managers may not be aware of the actual experiences of employees. Include actual quotes from employee focus groups to ‘show’, not ‘tell’ the participants the impact of their own or other’s behaviour that could happen or have happened in their own organisation. Non-identifying real-life stories and anonymous quotes engage the emotional brain rather than the rational brain, which fosters empathy and enhanced motivation for and commitment to change.
  • Make inclusive behaviours feel actionable, not additive. Show leaders practical examples of how inclusive behaviours can easily be embedded in general leadership behaviours, rather than teaching Inclusive Leadership as an isolated skill.
  • Inclusive Leadership education can evoke strong emotions so creating Psychological Safety is a foundational element for impactful education results. Use techniques to establish safe environments for growth and learning. 
  • Meet the audience where they are and include lots of time for authentic conversations that support comprehension of complex topics. Hold space for participants willing to be vulnerable.
  • Provide guides and resources to support leaders and people managers to run inclusive meetings. Co-op Digital has created 7 guidelines to help people collaborate effectively and inclusively that can be downloaded for free in poster format.

Further information