How Inclusive leaders make for truly inclusive policies?

How Inclusive leaders make for truly inclusive policies?

Representation matters. A lot. Recent research from Accenture shows that an inclusive working environment in which all people feel they belong is five times more likely to deliver on human potential, and drive better performance as a result. Accordingly, businesses committed to growth are looking to improve representation amongst their people, from the ground floor right up to the C-suite.

The trouble with this mindset, however, is that it can lead us to view diversity as a question with a purely quantitative answer. That, if only we could get the numbers right, we would “achieve” diversity and be free to move onto a growth agenda.

But growth and diversity shouldn’t — and in fact can’t — be decoupled.

Growth is all about being relevant to your audience and your market — and the more you reflect those audiences, the more relevant you are to them. That’s why the World Economic Forum found that diverse teams produce innovations that tend to stick the landing. Their report showed that these teams had “up to a 20% higher rate of innovation, and 19% higher innovation revenues.”

So, how can we consistently unlock that link between diversity and growth? Inclusive leadership is one critical component. And, because of fundamentally modern changes to our working culture, there’s never been a better opportunity for businesses — and all of us — to invest in it.

Perhaps an inclusive leader’s most valuable skill is self-awareness. That’s because they need to be simultaneously confident in their own strengths, but cognizant of the weaknesses that see them calling on the support of others. Inclusive leaders can:

Assess opportunity through the lens of representative empathy
Take an almost anthropological viewpoint — not just the surface demographics — to understand culture and its impact on growth
Intentionally and relentlessly assess their own inclusiveness and diversity to mirror your organization’s aspirations
If organizations can master this style of leadership, it will naturally foster meaningful diversity because leaders will elevate precisely those colleagues who are not like them. It’s the most direct way of turning diversity into an active strength, rather than a box-ticking exercise. It also imbues a company’s culture with the understanding that the next leader needn’t be one who looks, sounds or thinks like the current one.

Happily, modern changes in our working culture have created the perfect environment in which to commit to an inclusive leadership model. It was interesting to read recently that traditionally underrepresented groups were the most likely to embrace a hybrid working model in place of a “return to the office” — and, by extension, presumably a return to the pre-2020 culture of work.

It’s fair to say we’ve become more authentic and more vulnerable in the modern workplace. We’re now familiar with the names of our colleagues’ kids, the identity of their pets, even their taste in wall art and houseplants. It has naturally created a more personable way of working and communicating which lends itself to inclusive leadership. Much has been written, discussed and debated about the challenges arising from the changes to our shared working culture. But should we not attempt to make a virtue from the opportunities, too? How has the exposure of our own shared humanity improved your team’s productivity and effectiveness — and not just in the traditional ways we measure like revenue or profit, but in happiness, understanding and inclusion?

Google looks to hire hundreds in D.C. — and these aren’t policy jobs

Local TV station adds newscast, names anchors

Marriott pledges $50 million to support women, diverse hotel owners

While it’s clear that diversity unlocks a powerful pathway to growth, tokenism does not. We have to move away from a purely numbers-based approach to diversity and adopt one which truly harnesses diversity’s potential and makes it count for something beyond a ticked box. Inclusive leadership is the way to do just that.

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