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How Inclusive Are You as a Leader? Things You Need to Know



According to Gallup, executives “top five or 10 organizational priorities,” are to create inclusive cultures and “inclusion to be one of their organization’s most pressing aims.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup). Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey shows that “the proportion of executives who cite inclusion as a top priority rose 32% from 2014 to 2017.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup). In addition, the increasing social unrest around the world led to an emphasis on diversity and inclusion too.


The creation of a more diverse and inclusive workplace by organizations is crucial for organizational success. “Executives recognize that the more transparent and trustworthy their culture, the more likely they are to attract, hire, and retain high-performing employees — and grow their bottom line.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup).


Organizations are trying to respond and incorporate diversity by creating more inclusive cultures. “A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey reveals that 55% of respondents very strongly or strongly agree that their organization has policies that promote diversity and inclusion. However, having policies in place does not mean that policies and actions always align.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup).


Even though organizations promote diversity and inclusion, there is still some ambiguity around them. The ambiguity arises in implementing these concepts. “Gallup has found that few organizations are effective at creating a culture that truly promotes, embraces, and actively seeks each employee’s unique contributions. As highlighted in Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, just three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that their opinions seem to count at work.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup).


Organizations embarked on a journey to implement diversity and inclusion since early 2000 (Gallup). However, the aim of implementing such programs was for organizations to protect themselves from “legal ramifications.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup). Unfortunately, organizations were unsuccessful in reaping the benefits of diversity since they failed to incorporate “inclusion as a necessary method of creating that advantage.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup).


Research over three decades shows that organizations having a multicultural and diverse team was not enough to affect and “achieve sustained performance improvements.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup). However, organizations with “diverse and inclusive team cultures” gain a competitive advantage because they encourage various viewpoints, welcome a multitude of employees’ backgrounds which increases innovation, improves performance, reduces groupthink, and develop a closer connection to customers. (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup).


Diversity is more about the characteristics of employees being hired whereas inclusion is to which “extent diverse employees are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organization.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup). Moreover, “Inclusion refers to a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging.” (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup).


Inclusiveness builds on an employee’s unique strength that she/he brings to the organization, which has a positive impact on an organization’s overall competitiveness and performance. In an inclusive organizational culture, differences are appreciated and employees have a safe space to be themselves and to express freely their thoughts.


According to Gallup, leaders face challenges and struggle in “defining diversity,” and how to promote inclusiveness in their multicultural organizational environment. (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup). Interestingly, according to Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) “It’s entirely possible that companies can meet metrics for diversity and still not be inclusive.” (“The 3 A’s of Inclusion: Awareness, Authenticity, and Accountability.”, HBS).


According to HBS, “organizations and their leaders need to have a fundamental awareness and practices for making all individuals feel they have a place and value in the organization.” (“The 3 A’s of Inclusion: Awareness, Authenticity, and Accountability.”, HBP).

Even though, it is a hard and challenging process to undertake especially when leaders need to break gained and anchored habits of being unconsciously exclusionary, the good news that these habits can be reversed through “an active process that includes awakening” and “a mindset” that leaders can cultivate. (“The 3 A’s of Inclusion: Awareness, Authenticity, and Accountability.”, HBP).


Therefore, organizational development initiatives need to focus on three key areas deemed important “for building an inclusive culture: awareness, authenticity, and accountability.” (“The 3 A’s of Inclusion: Awareness, Authenticity, and Accountability.”, HBP).

“Awareness: Leaders need to look inward first.

Authenticity: Leaders who show up their real selves bring out the greatest potential in their teams.

Accountability: Leaders must hold themselves and others accountable for creating an inclusive environment.” (“The 3 A’s of Inclusion: Awareness, Authenticity, and Accountability”, HBP).


Coaching conversations are a stepping stone to build an inclusive culture in organizations in parallel to organizations’ strategy in incorporating inclusive practices throughout the organization. A metric and accountability system tracking leaders’ inclusiveness practices and sharing success will have a major positive impact on organizations’ success in building an inclusive culture; and reap the benefits of an inclusive culture such as increased innovation, improved performance, reduced groupthink and a closer connection to customers. (“3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture,” Gallup).


As a leader, two questions to reflect on: 1- How are you exhibiting inclusive leadership behaviors? 2- Where do you stand on the spectrum of awareness, authenticity, and accountability?


To “Assess How Inclusive Are You as a Leader?” (HBP) Check the following link: https://www.harvardbusiness.org/insight/assess-how-inclusive-are-you-as-a-leader/


According to HBP, “Leaders behavior across the organization is a key indicator of where an organization is on its journey to inclusion.” (“The 3 A’s of Inclusion: Awareness, Authenticity, and Accountability.”, HBP). The key to success on an organization’s inclusiveness journey is “a metric and accountability system,” to monitor, encourage inclusiveness practices, and to celebrate the success of such practice to reinforce these practices. (“The 3 A’s of Inclusion: Awareness, Authenticity, and Accountability.”, HBP).


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