hands meeting in middle for collaboration

Whether team members feel supported, valued, and included at work ultimately falls into the hands of organizational leaders—their words and actions influence whether someone feels included by about 70 percent.

With this in mind, how can leaders demonstrate inclusivity to their team members? What can they do differently to motivate their teams to put their best foot forward? What exactly does inclusive leadership entail? Let’s dive into the six characteristics of inclusive leaders. Take note of the actionable takeaways included with each trait that you can immediately put into practice.

1. Visible Commitment

Inclusive leaders have a passion for creating an equitable and inclusive environment. They illustrate this commitment through their interactions with team members and how they hold others accountable to being equitable and inclusive.

Inclusive leaders also challenge the status quo and invite new and diverse perspectives to the table.

How to Achieve This

Proactively illustrate your commitment to inclusion by inviting team members to sit down and have an open discussion about what inclusion means to them. Listen to the team members’ perspectives and discover how you can better work with the team members to meet those expectations.

Though it might initially seem trivial to have team members involved in these types of conversations and plans, this gesture shows how important their opinions are to you and the organization. In addition, it conveys your commitment to building a happy, healthy workplace environment.

2. Humility

Inclusive leaders are not pompous. They admit to their mistakes, are modest about their skills, and invite people to contribute and collaborate. Even if they are the most senior member of their team, inclusive leaders are open to learning from their team members.

How to Achieve This

Develop and demonstrate humility as a leader by taking the following actions.

  • Taking time to recognize the contributions of others
  • Sharing or giving credit to those that deserve it
  • Asking for feedback from others regularly to identify ways you can improve as a leader and proactively help your team

inclusive leadership

3. Awareness of Bias

Though 95 percent of people believe they are self-aware, only 10 to 15 percent actually are.

An inclusive leader is self-aware of their own biases and blind spots. They also understand the biases that occur on an organizational level and make the effort to call them out—not out of spite but because they care.

After all, when you are a part of a team and business, you don’t want to be subjected to biases that unfairly put you in dire circumstances.

How to Achieve This

Conduct 360-degree feedback on yourself and your team members. The feedback can help you and your team gain more self-awareness of how actions and behaviors affect those around you.

Take the opportunity to have 1:1 discussions with team members during which you can

  • Discuss feedback results.
  • Establish a roadmap for improvement.

4. Willingness to Build Connections

Good leaders understand the value in relationships and encourage team members to create meaningful connections with those around them. Inclusive leaders also step outside the comfort of their own team to get to know and collaborate with other departments.

How to Achieve This

Create and support a culture rooted in connection by taking the following actions:

  • Host multi-team activities like “lunch and learns” to bring different teams closer together and learn from each other.
  • Engage in regular conversations with individual team members to gain feedback, facilitate open and honest conversations about workplace issues, and discuss how they want to grow at the organization.
  • Discover each team member’s strengths and weaknesses to better understand how to provide relevant opportunities that help them succeed.

5. Social Intelligence

Social intelligence refers to the ability to understand and manage interpersonal relationships. A socially intelligent leader understands when to talk or listen, what to say, and what to do. Emotional intelligence plays a large role in helping leaders navigate social situations with good intent and finesse.

When leaders develop good relationships, it can improve their social intelligence.

How to Achieve This

Developing social intelligence requires:

  • Thinking before you speak or act: Avoid speaking or acting impulsively by taking the time to think through what you need to say or do.
  • Building empathy: Empathy helps you build a genuine understanding of what the other person is feeling and experiencing. It can serve as a path to fostering greater authenticity in your relationships.

6. Collaboration

Leaders who embrace collaboration can create teams that perform five times better and increase profitability by 21 percent. Inclusive leaders know collaboration is central to building a community that welcomes unique thoughts and values.

How to Achieve This

Empower your team members to work together by

  • Pairing or grouping people based on their strengths and weaknesses
  • Reaching out to other departments to discover opportunities in which your team can participate
  • Streamlining technology to bridge the gap between employees
  • Recognizing and rewarding successful teamwork

Develop into an Inclusive Leader with CMOE

Creating an inclusive culture can be challenging and complex, so it’s important to continuously learn and hone your skills. CMOE can help you do this. Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Essentials Workshop offers a dynamic learning experience that can help you adopt viable skills to help you build a safe and healthy work environment.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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