What are the traits of an inclusive leader?

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They say, diversity and inclusion flows from the top, and it is rather true. Till the top leadership is not inclusive in nature, you cannot expect to have an inclusive environment in the organisation. After all, it is the leader who inspires every member of the team. The leader is the reflection of the cultural identity of the organisation.

There are several business cases where an inclusive and diverse environment has fostered a variety of perspectives and creativity. Some researches have even gone on to say that a high level of diversity directly reflects in a positive increase in profits.

A research by HBR reveals that an inclusive leader is 17 per cent higher performing and 20 per cent more likely to make better decisions.

So what do we really see in inclusive leaders? What are some of the traits we would want leaders to have for an inclusive environment?

High level of commitment – Inclusive leaders have to be full of energy and should be able to invest time to foster an inclusive environment in the organisation. Inclusiveness does not come in two or three months. It takes years and years of effort to transform and create an inclusive environment.

Ability to empower – To foster a culture of inclusiveness, the leaders need to empower their team members and encourage them to speak their mind. The leaders need to make sure that they have different points of view for every decision. There should be contradictions. Only then will different ideas come from all directions no matter who you are.

Cultural knowledge – Inclusive leaders possess knowledge of different communities and cultures and try to mould the policies of the organisation accordingly. This is one way of creating a genuine feeling of belongingness.

Impartiality – Inclusive leaders need to be free of biases. It is important to treat everybody equally— whether it is an issue of accountability of work or a case of giving out rewards. Before taking on the responsibility to help and remove biasness from the organisation, the leaders first need to look within themselves and remove any bias. This is very important because leaders are prone to self-cloning.

Ability to instill a sense of belongingness – All leaders have a strong relationship with their team members. Nobody in the team should feel left out at any point. Building good relations with the team inside or even outside workplaces creates a sense of belongingness.

Authenticity – Leaders should promote a culture where employees or team members bring in their whole selves to the workplace. They should maintain their unique identity or behaviour rather than adopt or imitate behaviours for the sake of the organisation. Simply put, they should be genuine.

Curiosity to learn – Learning about different things and skills gives leaders different perspectives, which further helps them respect every individual’s personality. It offers leaders access to different ideas and teaches them to respect diverse viewpoints.

The above list of qualities can be used as a check list by leaders to see how many of these traits they possess and how many they need to develop or inculcate. These are qualities that team members can look for in their own leaders, and evaluate whether their leaders possess all that is needed to ensure an inclusive environment.

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