Leadership is about engaging people and inspiring them to give their best and to stretch themselves to achieve higher goals. Have you been in a team where your boss has served as role model demonstrating the behaviours you want to see? Perhaps they have sought your input in making things better, made the work you do meaningful, recognizing skills and talents and treated you fairly? When working with such leaders, we are engaged, willing to give our all, improve ourselves and achieve above what we imagine is possible.
However, at other times have you experienced the opposite? A boss who has been concerned with self-interest, with their own private gain and self-worth. These types of people can be consumed by power and control. They often hold back their people, share information only on a need-to-know basis, favour some staff over others, treat their employees as small cogs in a big wheel and constantly spin information. At best, under such leadership, team members spend their time and energy trying to fly under the radar until some other work option materializes.
This style of leadership promotes motivating each employee to feel authentically valued and respected and is engaged in achieving a shared vision. Inclusive leaders effectively lead diverse teams by creating workplaces where all employees feel valued for who they are. They enable their people to feel like owners of the system - like they have a stake in its future. By acting as owners, team members can leverage their diverse perspectives and approaches to enhance learning and drive business success.
In today’s diverse teams, members may differ in several characteristics and yet feel a sense of true inclusion and ownership.
How can a leader engender a sense of inclusion in the face of such diversity?
People feel included when they belong to meaningful groups and are accepted and treated as insiders. They can access information and resources necessary for effective job performance. To bring about this sense of inclusion, leaders should exhibit two possible sets of behaviours.
Value and respect all individuals for their talents and contributions. Leaders’ words and deeds must demonstrate an authentic appreciation for the diverse identities, backgrounds, talents of their employees. Being aware of their stereotypes, biases, and mental models. They should allow and recognize diverse identities from their employees. An Inclusive leader should articulate the value of a diverse team and show a commitment to diversity in hiring, career progression and compensation.
Encourage the input and initiative of all employees. Leaders should be aware of their own behaviours to ensure that they treat all opinions equally and respectfully. They should encourage a sense of purpose and clear paths among team members, promoting a common vision based on shared values that are directly linked to team outcomes. Leaders should create team conditions that encourage members to speak up about ideas and engage in debate about these if required. By their words and actions, leaders should promote team relations that are democratic, supportive, and welcoming of challenge, rather than team relations that are unsupportive, defensive, or based on favourites. This will increase the transparency of team decision-making and processes.
The above leadership behaviours take into account team member differences to tap into new opportunities and innovate new ways of doing business. By building a sense of inclusion and ownership, inclusive leadership can be inspirational and teams become motivated to invest themselves in achieving the extraordinary!