Unlocking Success: Inclusive Leadership Traits Unveiled

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The world is becoming more diverse as travel becomes more accessible, companies go global, and a younger, more culturally aware generation takes the workplace reigns. According to a Deloitte report, as of 2020, the millennial generation makes up about 50% of the workforce, and this labor segment is demanding greater employment equity, team diversity, and inclusive cultures.  

Between globalization and a demand for greater DEI focus, employers are desperate for inclusive leaders to make it all happen while fostering company growth and consistent profits. In today’s article, Coach Diversity Institute breaks down the essential traits of an inclusive leadership style. Plus, our leadership programs can help kickstart the process for your entire team! 

The Core of Inclusive Leadership

An ideal place to start is with a definition to understand what makes an inclusive leader tick. Smaiyra Million, the Babson Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director, defines inclusive leadership as “[someone] who leads a diverse group of people while demonstrating respect for each person’s unique characteristics.” 

Using that definition, we can see that highly inclusive leaders are capable of seeing the bigger picture of how people from different backgrounds contribute to organizational success. These individuals know that they must have cognizance of bias and microaggression and work toward eliminating them. 

As another Executive Director puts it, inclusive leaders “need to lead without bias. [They] also need to understand existing biases.” The ability to navigate various cultural backgrounds, eliminate biases, and create conditions where your teams can thrive is the crux of who an inclusive leader is. 

Indeed, inclusive leaders are the role models of positive change, capable of self-regulation in settings we’re all familiar with. For instance, inclusive HR leaders can change hiring practices and open their talent pools to a broader range of talent, eliminating favoritism in the process. 

Likewise, social workers rely on leaders who respect and understand diverse groups of people. These professionals never know where a case might take them, and inclusive behaviors are essential to ensure those involved get the care they need while navigating complex outcomes. 

In fact, the traits that compose inclusive leaders create a common thread with the soft skills that anyone can learn with the proper tools. Let’s look at Coach Diversity Insititute’s top five traits that every inclusive leader shares and how you can refine them. 

Trait 1: Empathy and Understanding

Empathy: to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. And we’re not just talking about the Eminem song, but authentic perspective shifts that reveal how unique and beautiful everyone is. Genuine empathy is a deep comprehension of the similarities and differences between cultures while recognizing the impact of one’s own viewpoints. 

Inclusive leaders leverage a deep desire to expand their cultural intelligence to value the various cultural identities present in the workplace. When faced with new challenges, these leaders are first to arm themselves with new education to reduce unintended misunderstandings. 

In team settings, inclusive leaders create safe spaces, adjusting verbal and non-verbal behaviors to match cultural demands. They bring out the best in others by creating a sense of belonging so they can share their different perspectives, enhancing team dynamics and problem-solving. 

Trait 2: Openness to Learning

We briefly touched on inclusive leaders’ thirst for new knowledge and having an open mindset. However, it’s not just undergoing a seminar or learning program but an engrained fondness and receptiveness to learning in general. 

Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Technologies, once commented on the openness of leaders to learning when he said, “With curiosity comes new ideas, and in businesses that are changing rapidly, if you’re not curious, you’re not learning, and you’re going to have a real problem. With a net worth of more than $90 billion, it’s safe to say that Dell knows a thing or two about learning. 

Learning empowers leaders to explore fascinating solutions and better decision-making by valuing and absorbing everyone’s input, regardless of cultural background. Inclusive leaders know that with new ideas and worldviews on their side, they unlock the best in their teams and generate higher productivity. 

Trait 3: Courage to Challenge the Status Quo

Courage and bravery are foundational traits of an inclusive leader. The best managers, business owners, and educators must challenge the status quo, make tough decisions, and recognize the difference between when the tides change and when to double down. A Harvard Business Review article points this out. 

Leaders are often comfortable challenging others and even systematic norms to some degree. However, inclusive leaders take it a step further and relentlessly challenge themselves. To have the biggest impact on others and the system at large, leaders must start with internal shifts, recognize their own biases, admit mistakes when they happen, and constantly work toward reducing blind spots. 

Only with internal bravery can an inclusive manager know when to step in and be a vocal supporter. These managers work tirelessly to stamp out any sign of discrimination or microaggressions when they rear their ugly heads, despite the opportunity to take the easy way. 

Trait 4: Transparency and Communication

Managers can foster meaningful communication through their ability to facilitate the exchange of ideas between team members from various backgrounds. Their communication ability allows teams to produce something fresh or help them solve complex issues. 

Inclusive leaders ask follow-up questions to gain clarity and always operate from a place of seeking understanding. These leaders can create psychological safety and a culture of inclusion that makes it easy for everyone to feel confident sharing ideas or opinions. 

Plus, when things don’t go well, inclusive leaders take personal responsibility for making amends, repairing damaged relationships, and coaching others to do the same. However, an inclusive leader’s most helpful tool is active listening and being receptive to feedback. 

Trait 5: Collaboration and Empowerment

Communication is only one half of the coin, as efficient group communication leads to collaboration and positive cross-cultural interactions. Inclusive leaders are adept at highlighting the skills of everyone on the team, enabling everyone to feel the effects of their impactful contributions. 

Inclusive leaders encourage team members to communicate through inclusion strategies that make each person comfortable. Furthermore, an inclusive leader is deliberate and disciplined when constructing teams to consider diverse thinking. 

If conflict does arise, an inclusive leader will use conflict management strategies that extend beyond compromise to ensure cohesion. The most inclusive leaders will uncover the root cause and work toward a lasting resolution. 

Implementing Inclusive Leadership in Your Organization

There are plenty of benefits to ensuring the leadership in your organization is as inclusive as possible. The process of implementing these leadership behaviors into key positions starts with a few practices you can deploy today, including:

  • Make DEI initiatives a key talking point in your team meetings.
  • Investing in unconscious bias self-awareness training to build teams with strong competencies and diverse perspectives.  
  • Shift hiring practices to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of strategic alignment. 
  • Recruiting, promoting, and training diverse and inclusive leaders. 
  • Maintaining progress through performance management, metrics evaluation, and KPI reporting. 
  • Recognizing and rewarding positive behaviors.
  • Investing in leadership development programs, such as Coach Diversity Institute’s Coach Training

Long-term success starts with daily habits amongst leadership teams and their subordinates. These are only a handful of tips and strategies you can use, and Coach Diversity Institute can provide additional resources to help make DEI a priority in your organization. 

Inspire a Legacy of Inclusion with Coach Diversity

There is always a strong business case for employing individuals with inclusive leadership capabilities. Inclusive workplaces invest in training leaders to be inclusive and hire inclusive leaders who are sure to bring about positive changes and strong bottom-line profits. 

One of the best ways to ensure you have inclusive leaders with the most up-to-date knowledge is to partner with Coach Diversity Institute. Taking courses and obtaining a coaching certification allows inclusive leaders in human resources, management consultants, and social workers to be ready to support diverse teams. 

Take the next step in your leadership journey by signing up for a Coach Diversity Institute program today!