Skip to content
Inclusive Leadership

7 Ways to Become an Inclusive Leader

Why should you become an inclusive leader?

People want to be a part of an inclusive culture no matter where they work. And inclusive leadership plays a big part in facilitating a sense of belongingness, safety and authenticity within the organization.

Companies in the know are headlining inclusion to reduce attrition, motivate creativity and retain highly engaged talent. Given the value of inclusive leaders, then the practices of highly inclusive leadership and organizations should be deemed critical considerations informing upon best practices in the workplace.

Traits that are consistent with inclusive leaders like curiosity, self-awareness, humility and empathy alongside concrete strategies and behaviors most aligned with inclusive leaders are considered below.

Becoming a More Inclusive Leader

This month, using the results of Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) interviews with highly inclusive leaders, Spectra Diversity is breaking down seven ways you can become a more inclusive leader today.

1. Be authentic and self-aware.

Employees respect leadership who recognize their role in potentially upholding biases, privileges and assumptions. An inclusive leader takes the time to self-reflect and projects self-awareness rather than ivory tower immunity. Inclusive leaders lead with vulnerability and humility rather than leadership presence.

Take the time to engage in uncomfortable conversations and actively seek feedback from diverse perspectives. These conversations build genuine understanding about the identity and positionality of yourself and your team.

These represent authentic opportunities to foster compassion, empathy and recognition of the challenges faced by your employees.

2. Actively educate yourself and consistently operationalize new learning.Inclusive leadership education

According to the celebrated inclusive leaders interviewed by HBR, “The effort to be inclusive is actively learned, not passively acquired.”

Becoming a truly inclusive leader requires a commitment to continuous learning and education about diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) issues.

Staying up to date on current events, research and best practices in the field is a start.

Applying this knowledge directly to organizational systems and daily practices is the next step in demonstrating your commitment to combating the perils of systemic oppression, unconscious bias and privilege.

Expanding your knowledge base, and putting that knowledge to work can serve as a means to advocate for marginalized communities as well as drive meaningful change within your organization.

If you’re a leader who is interested in uncovering your blind spots or learning more about becoming an inclusive leader, consider engaging with a DEI Coach.

3. Communicate clearly and inclusively.

Create an environment where every voice is heard and valued. And make certain everyone gets information at the same time. Active listening, empathy and respect should be a part of all interactions. An inclusive leader encourages open dialogue, constructive feedback, and a willingness of all parties to challenge problematic language or behavior.

Respect your team members’ preferred method of communication and work together to promote inclusive language and communication strategies that facilitate belonging and psychological safety for all individuals.

Psychological safety is the key to high performing teams.

4. Lead by example. Lead infectiously.Lead inclusively

Model inclusive behaviors and attitudes in your daily interactions in an effort to help inclusive behaviors spread company-wide.

Inclusive leadership is everyone’s responsibility, not just upper management or HR’s. Everyone plays a pivotal role in shaping the culture of inclusivity within their organizations, paving the way for positive change and collective action towards a more equitable and welcoming workplace for all.

Demonstrating inclusive behaviors in your interactions, decision-making, and organizational initiatives, they create a ripple effect throughout the organization.

Embodying core values that promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of an organization can become infectious as you inspire others to follow suit and contribute to a culture of inclusivity.

5. Ensure equal opportunity and empower diverse voices.

An inclusive leader strives to create opportunities for individuals from marginalized communities to thrive. An inclusive workplace that fosters a culture of belonging can empower everyone to bring their whole self to work.

When underrepresented groups are supported and celebrated, inclusive leaders can cultivate a more innovative and resilient workforce.

Inclusive leaders understand the importance of representation at all levels of the organization. They actively work to ensure that individuals from marginalized communities have access to leadership roles and opportunities for advancement, and they celebrate the achievements of diverse employees.

By creating a culture of belonging where all employees feel respected and supported, inclusive leaders can unleash the full potential of their workforce. When individuals are free to bring their whole selves to work, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, think creatively, and innovate solutions to complex challenges.

This not only benefits the individuals themselves but also strengthens the organization as a whole, making it more innovative, resilient, and adaptive to change.

6. Challenge the status quo.

Inclusive leaders redefine the rules rather than unquestioningly following them. You must be willing to challenge systemic inequalities and injustices within your organization and industry. Key trailblazing qualities include: advocating for policies and practices that promote equity and dismantle barriers to inclusion, taking proactive steps to address unconscious bias in hiring, promotion and performance evaluations and confronting structural inequities.

Policy and procedure changes that can create a more inclusive workplace include implementing blind recruitment processes to reduce unconscious bias in hiring, establishing flexible work arrangements to accommodate diverse needs, providing comprehensive diversity training to educate employees on inclusion and equity, conducting regular pay equity audits to address disparities, and actively promoting diversity and inclusion in leadership positions through targeted recruitment and development programs.

Constantly re-evaluating and revising outdated practices allow inclusive leaders to attract and support a caliber of employees who may contribute unique points of view and add value to the organization as a whole.

 7. Practice Data Driven driven DEI

Critical to any successfully inclusive workplace is a well-established feedback loop that requires perpetual measurement and evaluation of progress.

Reports like the Spectra Diversity’s Annual Spectra Assessment Report (ASAR) can give you information about where your industry stands with regards to DEI.

Inclusive leaders should establish metrics and benchmarks to track progress on DEI initiatives with the organization. Within this system, regularly assess the impact of your leadership strategies on DEI outcomes.

Maintain a formal means to obtain feedback from employees and upper executives to identify missed targets and areas for improvement to guide the refinement of your approach over time.

Reports like Spectra Diversity’s Annual Spectra Assessment Report can give you information about where your industry stands with regards to DEI and the Spectra Diversity Inclusion Assessment can help establish a baseline of data within your own organization.

Learn more about data-driven DEI in the new book from Spectra Diversity’s CEO Chris Jones Powering Inclusive Cultures: Measurement Matters.

Attract and Retain High Performing Talent

Inclusive cultures are eagerly sought by prospective employees and inclusive leadership is a fundamental imperative for organizations aiming to deliver the work culture employees demand.

The inclusive leader can lead the way by cultivating self-awareness, staying on the pulse, fostering inclusive communication, leading by example, empowering diverse voices, challenging the status quo, and maintaining data-driven DEI.

The inclusive leader who champions diversity, equity, and inclusion at every turn can create a more equitable, inclusive and likewise productive and profitable workplace for all.

Are you ready to get started?


Back To Top