Leaders have a significant impact on inclusion in any organisation. The Harvard Business Review reports that the actions of leaders can make up to a 70% difference around how included individuals feel. So, how can you best support the leaders in your organisation to develop the inclusive leadership skills they need to take them from ally to advocate?
Firstly, it’s important to remember that inclusive leadership is a learned skill. Exclusion may happen because a leader doesn’t have the existing skills to identify the ways their language or actions could contribute to making someone feel unsafe. In this way, developing inclusive leaders requires a three-pronged approach: inclusive leadership training, ensuring accountability and ongoing support.
There are many factors that contribute to inclusive leadership, including curiosity, flexibility, responsiveness and identity awareness to name a few. I’ve written about this elsewhere. If you’d like to develop your own skills, learn more about being an inclusive leader.
Diversity and Inclusion training is controversial. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest our common go to, unconscious bias training, actually creates exclusion. However, LGBTIQA+ awareness training, workplace harassment training and cultural inclusion training can provide much needed education. But before you take your leaders through a number of training sessions looking at specific equity groups, consider whether you have given them the lens required to identify barriers faced by all members of their teams and the skills to do something about it. This is where inclusive leadership training comes in. It requires a broader understanding of both a manager’s own positionality and the ability to identify barriers faced by members of their team.
Providing your leaders with inclusive leadership training that goes beyond bias will assist them to create a safe space for all employees. The Diversity Council Australia has some excellent resources to get you started. Inclusive leadership takes many forms. If your organisation needs a helping hand to deliver inclusive leadership training, get in touch with the experts at Bree Gorman. Our Inclusive Leadership Workshops will empower your managers to develop their inclusive leadership skills by supporting them to understand the impact of identity and provide them with the ability to recognise barriers.
When I was at the beginning of my career, I was fortunate enough to work with an inclusive manager. I led a project that a few senior men on the team believed should’ve been theirs, so I had trouble being heard in project meetings, particularly when the leader wasn’t in the room.
How did my leader demonstrate inclusive leadership? Firstly, they noticed the challenge I was facing. He understood the age and gender biases affecting my progress, rather than believing I didn't have the leadership capacity to control the group. He then took active steps to support me. These included:
My manager used key inclusive leadership skills to ensure I had the platform I needed to lead the project successfully by overcoming identity barriers and bias. As I’ve mentioned, these skills are not inherent in most of our leaders. We need to provide them with the ability to recognise barriers and then work to overcome them.
Use KPIs that are targeted, meaningful and achievable to measure the impact of inclusive leadership in your organisation. Bear in mind that these indicators need to make sense for the particular leader and the context that they operate within. Some examples of KPIs to measure inclusive leadership include targeting:
Inclusive leaders are empowered in an organisation when all policies and procedures consider Diversity and Inclusion. And it can work both ways. The policies can begin a conversation for leaders, providing them with the impetus to learn and do more. Here are some questions to ask yourself about the policies in your organisation:
Supporting your leaders to understand and review these policies will encourage them to foster an inclusive space for all employees. Work together to find out whether all of your staff are aware of them and if there are specific changes that need to be made. Your leaders can seek feedback and implement them. Remember, inclusive leadership goes beyond allyship – it’s about action and advocacy.
04 January 2021
18 April 2022
04 February 2022