The Importance of Inclusive Leadership

10/7/2014

Inclusive leadership is a crucial skill for business and organizational leaders as we coordinate diverse team members’ contributions and help them reach peak performance.  

Inclusive leadership establishes standards for business practices and creates a work environment that encourages and enables individuals and groups to contribute to their fullest potential. Inclusive leadership also encourages the optimization of unique experiences, perspectives and viewpoints for the collective benefit of all stakeholders. This journey is very personal and is required as a first step to inclusivity at the organizational level.

In an organization that has low diversity and high inclusion, a homogenous group exists in which members may feel high cohesion, since the group is comprised of individuals who are similar to each other. Inversely, in a high diversity and low inclusion organization, a mixed group of people works together with potential for low cohesion. Many organizations miss this connectivity between diversity and inclusion as they strive to bring in a diverse group of employees but do not foster an environment of inclusion. This often counteracts retention efforts, no matter how well developed those efforts may be.

As Dr. Scott Page, Professor of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor put it, “Innovation provides the seeds for economic growth, and for that innovation to happen depends as much on collective difference as on aggregate ability. If people think alike, then no matter how smart they are, they most likely will get stuck at the same locally optimal solutions. Finding new and better solutions, innovating, requires thinking differently. That is why diversity powers innovation.”

As an organization becomes more diverse, leaders of that organization must likewise expand their efforts to identify exclusionary practices and behaviors, and educate the workforce to foster inclusion. High levels of diversity and inclusion offer companies real competitive advantages in the marketplace when all employees are actively engaged to reach their peak performance.

Cheryl Williams