Inclusivity in the Workplace: Driving Empowered and Engaged Teams
Leaders are the driving force of an organization’s culture and accomplishments, shaping its very foundation. A strong leader steers the ship toward success, but inclusive leaders go beyond the conventional roles of guidance and management to seamlessly integrate inclusivity in the workplace. They serve as catalysts for building united high-performing teams, fostering innovation and employee engagement, and championing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Despite the benefits of inclusive leadership, many organizations are still left with questions: What does it take to be an inclusive leader? How much does leadership impact company culture? Will our team have to participate in leadership development programs to transition in this direction? And how can you integrate this leadership style into your processes and procedures? We’re taking the guesswork out of the equation and laying out everything you need to know about building a high-performance workforce with inclusive leadership.
What Does It Mean to Be an Inclusive Leader?
Being an inclusive leader means actively involving and valuing your team’s input in significant company matters, regardless of their backgrounds, identities, or perspectives. Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is the first step toward achieving inclusivity, but it should not stop there. This leadership style encourages open communication, collaboration, and participation from all team members, creating an environment where everyone feels heard, respected, and empowered to contribute their ideas and insights.
As a result, leaders receive feedback from all areas of the team, gain a better picture of the team’s capabilities and concerns, and hear ideas and solutions they may not have encountered otherwise. This works to build both creativity and inclusivity in the workplace, ultimately leading to more informed, innovative decisions and stronger, more cohesive high-performing teams.
Qualities of an Inclusive Leader
The qualities and behaviors of an inclusive leader are key to the effectiveness of this leadership style. Let’s take a look at some of the traits inclusive leaders share:
Open to Collaboration
Inclusive leaders recognize that diverse perspectives and experiences within their team are valuable assets, both for fostering a high-performance workforce and for enhancing innovation. In our Leadership Development programs, team leaders intentionally define the experience they want to create that empowers team members from different backgrounds to share their voices and be heard. This openness to collaboration fosters a culture of trust and respect, which is essential for building strong, high-performing teams.
Furthermore, inclusive leaders understand that inclusivity in the workplace leads to more innovative solutions and better decision-making. When individuals from various backgrounds come together to share their ideas and experiences, it often results in creative problem-solving and a wider range of perspectives being considered. This not only benefits the organization by driving innovation, but it also ensures that decisions are fair and equitable, reflecting the needs and interests of a company that has embraced diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
High Levels of Emotional Intelligence and Performance Awareness
Leadership in any capacity requires an element of emotional intelligence, but inclusive leaders are particularly engaged with their own and their team’s emotional states — and how they affect the organization’s overall performance. This awareness allows leaders to forge stronger connections between team members, react more precisely to subtle company culture shifts, and resolve conflicts quickly and smoothly.
Performance awareness, a type of emotional intelligence that we explore in our leadership development programs, is another valuable trait inclusive leaders must develop to most effectively foster a high-performance workforce. To develop inclusivity in the workplace, leaders must be able to assess their team’s performance and determine what each member needs to thrive. They can then work with these findings to organize team members, assign roles and tasks efficiently, and guide their groups toward becoming high-performing teams.
Values Empowerment and Growth
Inclusive leaders recognize that when team members feel empowered, they are more motivated, engaged, and willing to take ownership of their roles. By delegating responsibilities and entrusting their team with meaningful tasks, inclusive leaders provide opportunities for personal and professional growth, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. This fosters a sense of accomplishment and cultivates a more skilled and adaptable workforce.
Moreover, inclusive leaders understand that growth is not limited to individual team members but extends to the organization as a whole. By nurturing an environment where every voice is heard and talents are developed, they promote innovation and adaptability, essential for a company’s long-term success in a rapidly changing business landscape.
How Inclusive Leaders Contribute to High-Performing Teams
Any leader’s behaviors, attitude, and outlook influence organizational culture. Over the course of our leadership development programs, leaders discover how their actions and words set the tone for the workplace, impacting the values, norms, and overall experience. In essence, leaders serve as cultural role models, and their consistent influence has a profound impact on shaping the collective identity and ethos of the organization.
When inclusive leaders model openness, respect, and collaboration, employees are more likely to embrace these values, fostering a culture of transparency and teamwork. In turn, this empowers employees to bring their authentic selves to work, promoting a more vibrant and high-performance workforce that reflects the values and principles of inclusivity at its core. Let’s take a look at the effects:
When high-performing teams feel that their thoughts and ideas are valued by executives and high-level managers, they are more likely to think creatively. Studies show that team innovation increases up to 20% when there is a clear sense of inclusion within the organization. These fresh ideas can lead to groundbreaking products, processes, or solutions that give organizations an additional competitive edge.
If a leader builds an organizational culture that emphasizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, engagement will increase significantly. Research shows that when leaders of companies trust their employees, engagement is likely to increase by 76%. When employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their ideas authentically, employee performance and engagement skyrocket, leading to positive results for both your company culture and your bottom line.
Overall Operating Performance
Employee performance in inclusive organizations is on average 12% higher than in companies without diversity and inclusion efforts. On top of that, inclusive teams perform up to 30% better in situations with strong diversity. Statistically, inclusivity in the workplace is essential to creating a high-performance workforce.
Creating a Supportive Environment for Diverse Teams
Discussing topics relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion promotes these values in the company culture and makes all members of the team feel valued and respected. Forbes reports that companies that take active steps to promote diversity have higher levels of employee engagement, increased innovation, and higher employee retention rates — all key factors for high-performing teams.
To seamlessly promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, these values need to start at the top of the organizational hierarchy. Leaders should exemplify diversity and inclusion through unbiased recruiting, building connections with employees, and transparent communication. To create a supportive environment for all employees, building inclusivity in the workplace must be a clear goal.
How to Promote Inclusive Leadership in Your Organization
If you’re interested in the benefits of this leadership style but aren’t sure how to take the first step, we’ve compiled a few ideas to get the ball rolling.
Leadership Development Programs
Organizations can expand the inclusivity of their teams and leaders through specialized leadership development programs like Leadership Advantage. One part of Leadership Advantage involves adapting the methodology of the Achieve System™ to achieve inclusivity in the workplace. Through the application of the Achieve System™, leaders are able to develop a clear, tangible vision of what an innovative and inclusive high-performance workplace culture should resemble, and the methodology equips them with the strategies and tools to make that vision a reality.
According to Forbes, 83% of organizations believe in leadership development, but only 5% actively engage in leadership development programs or other efforts to support this goal. But in order to integrate inclusivity in the workplace, all players need to be on the same page, starting with the company leaders. Leaders provide guidance, mentorship, and direction to their teams. By investing time and resources in development, leaders can include their team in setting goals and objectives, engaging and motivating all those involved.
Explore Inclusive Leadership Styles
If your organization is seeking to promote high-performing teams driven by diversity and inclusion, consider the Achieve Institute’s Achieve Diversity programs. This program was designed to help diverse leaders and their teams successfully break through the unique set of challenges they face in the workplace and achieve optimal diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Reach out to the Achieve Institute™ today to take the first step toward becoming a high-performance workforce.