Diversity in our society offers enormous potential that is yet to be used to its full extent. Instead, structural discrimination remains common, and problems such as inequality in wages or low representativeness of marginalized groups in decision-making positions are still widespread in the economy.
Research has confirmed this time and time again – diverse teams achieve better results. For example, a study by McKinsey showed: companies with high gender diversity are 25% more likely to be profitable above average. With ethnic diversity, this value is as high as 36%! So, there is not only a moral, but also an economic duty to promote diversity in one’s own organization. This requires a culture in which all individuals feel equally recognized and valued. Inclusive leadership aims to do exactly that.
To take a closer look at this topic and have invited an inspiring panel of experts to our Cologne office. To take a closer look at this topic and have invited an inspiring panel of experts to our Cologne office. In the panel talk “Inclusive Leadership in Practice“, Rea Eldem, DEI Consultant and Managing Director at IN-VISIBLE, Amanda Graham, Head of People Operations at How.fm, Mara Pohlmann, DEI Specialist at AXA and Philip Schwidetzki, Leadership Coach and Managing Director at troodi, contributed different perspectives on inclusive leadership.
This blog article addresses the key questions about inclusive leadership.
What is Inclusive Leadership?
Inclusive leadership is about an inclusive leadership culture – this means that leaders actively incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their leadership actions and decision-making processes. Leaders should create a framework that enables every team member to contribute with their skills equally. In this context, it is important that leaders set the best example and act in a self-reflective manner. However, this is also one of the greatest challenges.
What characterizes Inclusive Leadership?
An inclusive leader shows empathy, is open to feedback and criticism, and actively promotes equal opportunity and fairness to create a work environment where everyone feels comfortable and valued. Above all, this involves awareness of DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) and the willingness to address issues. Often, people who are not affected are not aware of the reasons for discrimination in their organization. Discrimination happens not only on an individual level, but also on a structural level. Inclusive leadership takes conscious steps to break down barriers and adapt processes and structures. This requires concrete strategies, objectives, and responsibilities.
Employee surveys, for example, can be used to find out whether inclusive leadership is successfully implemented. How satisfied are you? Do you have the impression that you have equal opportunities for success? Are you feeling a sense of belonging? Anonymous surveys can capture a realistic picture that captures everyone’s opinion.
. In addition to surveys, it’s important to create a safe space for employees – especially if they don’t yet feel like they belong. What are they missing? Measures and focus areas can be identified from this.
Engaging allies and dealing with resistance
Diversity and inclusion have become increasingly present in the past few years. However, in addition to the dedicated supporters, there are also people who do not (yet) recognize the relevance of the topic. But the solidarity of privileged individuals is very important for the success of inclusion. How do you convince the skeptics? Force rarely leads to success. Instead, use various formats to introduce the topic – whether on a personal level or with economic arguments. Open and understanding communication at eye level can help overcome fears and reservations. In this process, leaders have a role model function. The importance of inclusive leadership should also be integrated into the strategic orientation of a company.
Not every person will immediately be convinced of the importance of these issues. In any case, framework conditions must be created that promote respectful interaction and do not permit discrimination in the work environment.
Inclusive Leadership is structural and involves all dimensions
Diversity needs to be considered in a way that is not one-sided. Inclusive leadership creates structures in which everyone really feels safe. Eine offene Feedback- und ehrliche Unternehmenskultur ermöglichen, dass Mitarbeitende wichtige Rückmeldungen geben können. It is not enough to launch a program on women’s empowerment and equality. There is a risk here that responsibility remains with discriminated groups and individuals. Also, inclusive leadership should ideally be linked to other aspects, such as self-care. Because when we are doing well ourselves, we can recognize and reduce our unconscious biases, and we have the energy to advocate for others.
In a nutshell – four learnings
2. Inclusive leadership cannot be achieved just by training leaders, but must be reflected in the organization’s objectives, processes and structures, as well as in individual behavior.
3. Inclusive leadership requires leaders to be aware of the benefits of diversity as well as the different levels of discrimination and structural privilege and deprivilege. It includes critical self-reflection and consciously taking on a role model position.
4. A variety of measures is important to promote DEIB issues: Trainings, workshops, discussions at eye level, understanding fears and listening. The goal should not be to win all people in an organization equally for the topic, more realistic is to reach a critical mass of approximately 30%.
Change is a process – it may take time to understand inclusive leadership in its entirety. The most important thing is to recognize the need and initiate the change.
Would you like to learn more about this topic and exchange ideas with other HR and L&D professionals? Feel free to join our webinar. You can find more information in the LinkedIn event or directly from us.