Bringing out the Best of Diversity: The Value of Inclusive Leadership

Diversity in organisations is critical. And not just gender or ethnic diversity, but also diversity of age, sexual orientation, thinking style, socioeconomic status, life experience, neuro diversity, etc.

1st December 2017


By Charlotte Harman, Consultant, Cubiks UK

It is now well-recognised that diversity engenders improved decision-making, innovation, performance and financial returns (Frink et al. 2002; Konrad, Kramer & Erkut, 2008; Post & Byron, 2015; Torchia, Calabró & Huse, 2011). Organisations have rightly been concentrating their efforts on minimising bias in their recruiting campaigns and investing in wide-reaching candidate attraction campaigns to create a more diverse employee base. 

However, even if your organisation has succeeded in achieving this aim, some questions remain: 
a.    For how long do individuals from more diverse backgrounds remain in the organisation? 
b.    How well are they progressing? 
c.    Are the diverse teams outperforming other teams, as was the intention?

If your answers to those questions are: a) not very long; b) not very far and c) no, you may be interested to know that research is increasingly suggesting a consistent reason why this might be the case: low feelings of inclusion. These employees feel undervalued and/or as though they do not belong (Harman & Sealy, 2017; Peters, Ryan & Haslam, 2013).

One way to resolve this is to ensure that these teams/organisations are being led by inclusive leaders: leaders who make individuals feel valued for their uniqueness and for what they bring to the team, and also as though they belong. These leaders genuinely believe in the power of diversity and in doing so embrace individual differences and leverage them for competitive advantage. The key behaviours such leaders display include (Catalyst, 2014; Deloitte University Press, 2015; ENEI, 2016):

  • Having courage to act in accordance with their principles regardless of the situation, 
  • Holding others accountable, 
  • Empowering others, 
  • Being humble and admitting their mistakes,
  • Being curious about new ways of working and ideas.

It is these specific inclusive leadership behaviours that foster the benefits of diverse teams: i.e. improved feelings of inclusion, collaboration and team support behaviours, innovation and productivity (Catalyst, 2014). Accordingly, organisations should not just focus on diversifying their workforce, but also on embedding a culture of inclusion through their leaders. 

How inclusive are your leaders? At Cubiks, we can measure how inclusive your leaders are through our recruitment and development assessment services. Contact us to find out how you can help your organisation increase inclusion, engagement, innovation and performance:

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