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Why We Now Need to be Inclusive Leaders and Why it Can’t Just be Another Buzz Word.

By November 2, 2017February 14th, 2019Articles, Leadership


Leaders today need to find a way to create a winning edge in business and the only way they will do this is by creating an inclusive culture. You need to learn to embrace diversity across generations, genders and cultures. But what does this really mean and what is driving the need for this new leadership capability?

Clearly the world has changed significantly over the past 10 years. Technology has disrupted traditional business models, influenced how our younger generations have developed and how we communicate. It’s changed everything; increased the pace of business, increased knowledge, we now have access to global trends, innovation and information and can see into people’s lives right across the globe. The dynamic of our world is different, it’s volatile, the complexity of business is increasing and there is no one size fits all approach that are relevant any longer.

This has driven the context for leadership to evolve. It’s impossible for a single mind to solve the problems that are presented to us any longer. We need to engage collective intelligence and be brave enough to admit we don’t have all the answers and look to others for solutions.

Delloittes Insights outlined in their article ‘The Six Signature Traits of inclusive leadership’ the four main reasons why a leader now needs to be inclusive:

  1. Diversity in markets – demand is shifting to emerging markets
  2. Diversity of customers – the changing demographics and attitudes
  3. Diversity of ideas – the need for innovation caused by technological disruption
  4. Diversity of talent – shifts in demographics, education, expectations and migration flows are impacting employee population.

Diversity is driving the need for leaders to be a lot more inclusive, together with the skills of being relevant and influential. I now think the case has been made that to be a relevant leader today you need to be inclusive and value diversity.

There are many benefits in having a diverse and inclusive workplace, including:

  • improved problem solving
  • better innovation
  • broader and deeper thinking
  • ability to connect with a diverse range of clients
  • improved talent acquisition.

It seems obvious that a group of people with diverse individual expertise would be better than a homogeneous group at solving problems. This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information and ideas. Simply interacting with individuals who are different from us forces us to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort. There is absolute benefit in having this resourceful ‘tension’ within a team.

Google is heralded as one of the best places in the world to work. There’s good reason for that. Leonie Valentine is the Director of Customer Experience for Asia Pacific at Google and was part of a Bank of Melbourne panel discussion I saw in 2016. She shared some of the secrets to Google’s success:

  • encouraging a ‘tribal’ culture, so teams collaborate because they want to
  • removing visibility of a hierarchical organisational structure
  • including diversity throughout the organisation and its processes.

To close the gap on different generations, genders and cultures in your business, you need to redefine how you lead; embrace difference for the benefit of your business and your people; and imbed difference into the culture and operational model of your business.
The Society for Human Resource Management defines inclusion as:

The achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success.

An inclusive culture means expecting and encouraging collaboration across the organisation, asking for and valuing the contributions of all team members, and not excluding any demographic. It just simply makes sense now.

So the challenge is set. How would you rate your level of inclusiveness? Is this something you need to do better at? Is this something that needs to become a priority in your business and feature high on your business metrics? Is this something you’re doing as a token gesture – you have a diverse team but are you utilising them?

Inclusion just can’t become another ‘buzz’ word used loosely by leaders and not executed or committed to. If it does become simply a buzz word I think it will be your demise.