Every employee needs to feel respected, appreciated and a valued member of the team if they are to help their organisation achieve its objectives.

Within this supportive and inclusive environment, innovation and creativity find fertile ground, productivity levels escalate, and businesses reduce turnover rates and retain their key talent. 

But it’s not enough to just put a carefully thought-out diversity and inclusion policy into place.

As Harvard Business Review agrees “…what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included.”

By becoming a more inclusive leader, you can carry your organisation towards greater success on a global scale, providing your employees with exactly what they need to thrive in the modern workplace.

But what does inclusive leadership look like? How can we develop the key skills we need to thrive in this global leadership environment? Let’s find out.

What makes an inclusive leader?

Inclusive leaders are those who make leadership look natural and easy. By harnessing their effective communication skills, self-awareness and understanding, they can create a supportive environment that allows everyone to feel like a valued part of the team. Here are the six key traits that play a central role in this.

1. Awareness of bias

Inclusive leaders are aware of the flaws in the system, as well as their own biases and recognise that a different approach is required in the modern workplace.

They recognise that their unconscious biases can prevent them from making effective and unbiased decisions and therefore seek to implement strategies, policies and structures that break this pattern and promote both inclusion and diversity.

2. Commitment

When leaders are committed to diversity and inclusion, they make it a priority. They don’t only put a strategy into place in order to tick a few boxes. They have a sense of personal responsibility, adapt their behaviours, and hold others accountable to the same goal. As a result, they invest their time, energy, and resources into nurturing their workforces.

3. Courage

It’s not easy to challenge the status quo, especially if your opinion won’t always be accepted by everyone in the organisation.

Leaders working towards better inclusion in the workplace must have the courage to face this challenge whilst staying humble.

They need to recognise their mistakes, admit that they don’t have all the answers, and seek contributions on how to overcome their challenges.

4. Curiosity

Maintaining an open mindset and staying curious about others, allows leaders to listen without prejudice or judgement.

They recognise that their employees have unique strengths, understand diverse viewpoints on a topic and avoid making snap decisions that could harm the future of their business and the wellbeing of their team.

5. Cultural intelligence

Inclusive leaders take the time to understand the differences between individuals, understanding how an individual’s culture can affect their behaviour. They are sensitive to the needs of others and adapt their speech, body language and physical interactions as required.

This enables them to interact effectively with others on a global scale, connecting with employees, members of senior leadership and international business clients with ease.

6. Collaboration

With a strong sense of collaboration, inclusive leaders can build strong teams, empower others, and build an environment of outstanding communication. In this supportive team environment, individuals feel able to share their ideas, explain their options and communicate freely without fear of judgement.

Overall, becoming an inclusive leader means adopting these key behaviours and attitudes. It means treating each employee as a unique individual and recognising their strengths, values and unique perspectives on the world.

It allows us to tune in to the needs of those around us and work to create unity within the diversity of the organisation.

How leaders can become more inclusive

Although these traits may seem detailed and extensive, developing them can be easier than it might appear. By becoming more mindful of our natural biases, becoming more aware of the diversity of the world and taking steps to improve our approaches, we can become more inclusive leaders. Here are some suggestions:

1. Develop your ‘soft skills’

Every business leader needs to master key ‘soft skills’, or interpersonal skills in order to achieve their career objectives and drive the organisation forward. This includes negotiation, teamwork, communication, flexibility and adaptability, and relationships skills, all of which are also essential to building a more inclusive workplace.

Focus on improving these skills and you will optimise your career growth and provide your team with the support and understanding they need.

Find out more about my soft skills and emotional intelligence training programs here

2. Establish a diverse personal advisory board (PAD)

Bring together several people you can trust who can monitor your behaviour in the workplace and give you feedback on your behaviours.

Ideally, this should be your peers or a member of senior leadership who can focus on traits such as how sensitive you are to your employees, whether you are unbiased in your approach, whether you listen to both genders equally, and so on.

You can then use this feedback to shed light on your current behaviour and make small changes that will have a major impact.

3. Immerse yourself in new situations

It’s only by exposing ourselves to new and novel situations that we can expand our horizons, open our eyes and break out of our traditional patterns of thinking. Therefore, make an effort to expand your view of the world.

This could include encouraging discussions and group meetings at work, or simply means reading books or films you would never normally consider or reading about topics you lack awareness of.

By becoming more aware of the richness and diversity of life, you can become not only a more inclusive leader but also a better person.

Conclusion

When it comes to creating a more inclusive workplace that supports employees and allows them to fulfil their potential, we need to go beyond paperwork and policies.

We need to become more aware of our own behaviours, develop those interpersonal ‘soft skills’ that help evolve our perspectives and continue down that path towards personal growth as leaders.


Lisa Evans helps professionals to develop the soft skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Lisa is a certified business coach and experienced and accredited trainer, and a professional speaker. Lisa is a GENOS Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, which means she is certified to deliver the GENOS range of Emotional Intelligence Workshops and Developmental Assessments.

She has coached over a thousand leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales, and not-for-profit and community associations.
If you’d like to chat about how Lisa can help your team excel with the right soft skills, please contact us.

Soft Skills Training Workshops include:

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader includes a GENOS 180° leadership assessment.
The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace
Executive Presence for Leaders
Public Speaking for Leaders
The Leader as Storyteller
Communicate with Influence
Improv Skills for Leaders