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The 7 traits of inclusive leaders

There's no doubt that leaders hold the keys to inclusion. But how do you become an inclusive leader? What are the traits that inclusive leaders share?

"Inclusive Leadership has one of the highest correlations to employee engagement"

Beyond just understanding where it happens, as leaders we have the opportunity to hone in on the skills and competencies that create better inclusion within teams.

Where does inclusion happen?

Inclusion happens in three main ways.

1. Individual level. This includes learning to manage diverse individuals (e.g. introverts vs extroverts), understanding bias and how to mitigate that. This also means helping and supporting your individual team members to understand their own biases and how best to challenge and/or navigate those as well.

2. Team level. This includes knowing how to foster, grow, and develop diverse teams, how to lead inclusive meetings, use inclusive language, and encourage everyone on your team to do the same. It also means having the skill to leverage diverse thinking in a work environment with increasingly diverse customers, markets, and talent (HBR, 2020).

3. Organizational level. This entails fully understanding how to dismantle systems of power and privilege – for example, creating an anti-racist organization. This also requires that we regularly audit our people processes (from hiring to development to retention), identify the gaps around inclusiveness, and create rigorous inclusion strategies that are both data-driven and measurable in impact (SHRM, 2019)

Why does this matter?

Inclusive leadership is not only something that contributes to our own culture of inclusion and belonging, but it directly impacts employee engagement and performance.

What leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included. And this really matters because the more people feel included, the more they speak up, go the extra mile, and collaborate — all of which ultimately lifts organizational performance”- HBR, 2020

Research by Deloitte found that teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to say they are “high performing,” 20% more likely to make better decisions, and 29% more likely to collaborate. In 2019, a study found that 45% of experiences of an inclusive workplace could be explained by “managerial inclusive leadership.”

At Qualtrics, we have the biggest network of experience data (feelings, thought and emotions) in the world. And within our own data, we see that Inclusive Leadership has one of the highest correlations to employee engagement. So if leaders care about engaged employees, they should be focused on building inclusive leadership capability.

What does the research show?

+ An inclusive-leadership style can significantly boost productivity
+ Leadership is strongly correlated to how included an employee feels in the workplace

What are the traits inclusive leaders share?

  1. Visible commitment: They articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority. As part of their commitment, they also articulate a clear vision and mission that celebrates everyone, as well as helps to foster engagement and build shared goals.
  2. Humility: They are modest about their capabilities, admit and own their mistakes, and create space for others to contribute. They understand they are not the smartest or the singular source of truth in the room – nor do they desire to be. They champion great ideas regardless of from where or whom they originate.
  3. Listening with empathy: They seek out opportunities to gain exposure to different sources or types of diversity. They welcome and value different perspectives and experiences in efforts to gain a better understanding of the needs and challenges their teams may be facing.
  4. Deep self-awareness: They show awareness of personal blind spots, bias, as well as gaps in their thinking. Inclusive leaders not only demonstrate a deep level of self- awareness for themselves, but they also foster this level of awareness in others.
  5. Curiosity about others: They demonstrate an open mindset and keen curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek with empathy to understand those around them.
  6. Cultural intelligence: They are attentive to others’ cultures. They also possess the competence to effectively engage and interact with individuals from worldviews and belief systems outside their own.
  7. Effective collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thought and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

Each month I will be sharing different thoughts on various aspects of Inclusion and Belonging including managing inclusive teams, having inclusive meetings, using inclusive language, conducting inclusive research and more.

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