How to be an Inclusive Leader

Justin Byrne

Inclusive Leadership

In today’s world, successfully building a diverse workforce is like wearing a badge of honour – but doing so doesn’t automatically mean that your workplace itself actually practices inclusivity.

So what’s the difference?

Simply put, diversity refers to the bringing together of people from all backgrounds, genders, different ethnicities, religions and more. Inclusivity on the other hand means making sure that each and every one of those people has an equal opportunity to be heard, respected and valued by that same business. Making the right choices in hiring will bring you the diversity of workforce you want and need, but it’s embodying inclusivity as a leader which will ensure equilibrium, balance and, as a result, satisfaction across the team.

An inclusive leader is fair.

The number one way to be an inclusive leader is to treat each employee equally according to their ability, not their background. You should be looking beyond gender, race or otherwise in order to understand each individual’s skills and how they can bring benefit to your organisation, the team around them and the workplace as a whole.

When it comes to promotion and recognition in the workplace, this still stands; whether someone’s been doing the job for 10 years or 10 days, their attitude, effort and performance should dictate their success – not their background.

An inclusive leader is aware of, and draws attention to, unconscious bias.

Unconscious bias is what happens when our mind makes a decision based on a pre-programmed response, which we likely had no conscious part in or control over building. Our unconscious biases are formulated based on our own background and experiences and, as the term would suggest, we’re not always aware they’re even there.

An inclusive leader dissects their own decisions to ensure they’re acting (or reacting) to the situation at hand, rather than subconscious pathways which develop without thinking – working by fact, rather than making rash or impulsive decisions. Understanding your own unconscious biases and encouraging your employees to do the same will promote an inclusive environment, where everyone possesses the same chance at success.

An inclusive leader appreciates that a diverse workforce means new ways of thinking.

And isn’t afraid of change! Having a diverse workforce means diverse ways of thinking, doing and ideas – which are worth nothing if each isn’t listened to, evaluated and then acted upon based on merit, rather than who it came from. Inclusive leaders give everyone a voice, regardless of who or what they are.

These days there’s little more important than embracing individuality and the successes which can be borne of a diverse, inclusive and collaborative workplace. The human race is, thanks to technology, more connected than ever, which allows businesses the opportunity to differentiate their offering; sourcing talent from all corners of the world is now commonplace with the advent of remote working, relocation and online platforms. As a business leader, if you’re not taking advantage of that: you should be.

Inclusive leaders are people-focused individuals – they look for the who, not the what. They take an interest in people who share their values, but boast different talents, skills or beliefs to their own. An inclusive leader will demonstrate rather than command, and dig deep into each individual staff member to find and appreciate what it is they bring to the table.

Promoting an inclusive workplace doesn’t mean just ticking boxes – it’s about doing the best by your people and driving business success as such.