Globalization, advances in technology, and the impact of emerging markets have made the leadership of organizations increasingly complex. To address this complexity leaders need to embrace the ‘different’ and to become ‘inclusive’. Inclusive leaders have the skill to engage with people with different backgrounds and outlooks, are willing to adapt personally, and are able to create a shared vision which brings diverse individuals to a collective focus on a coherent end-goal. Organizations should follow the advice from Apple and their strapline “Think Different.”
There are three key contexts driving the need for ‘inclusive leadership’:
Increasing globalization demands a new global mind-set from leaders, team members and organizations. The ability to engage with people from different cultural, social and educational backgrounds, is an essential skill for any leader.
For multinational corporations developing business in emerging economies, the need to be increasingly inclusive of the customs and preferences of those they seek to attract as customers and employees is paramount.
Inclusive leaders recognize that people from different backgrounds approach work with a different perspective. Without ‘capitulating’ to alien working practices, inclusive leaders find an approach that takes the best of each ‘culture’ to create something unique. Attitudes to hierarchy, deference to superiors, time, work/life balance, and gender equality are just some of the differentiators between cultures. Inclusive leaders create environments where all cultures find their contribution welcomed and valued. Inclusive leaders give people a fair hearing without treating all contributions as equal.
2. Individualization, ‘segmentation of ONE’ and diversity
Increasingly sophisticated consumers are demanding customization and personal specification – the ‘segmentation of one’. We customize our LinkedIn profile, our Twitter account, our iPad and our mobile phones, etc.
To engage us as individuals, product and service offerings need to be customizable. Leaders too, without losing their authenticity, need to be to an extent customizable or adaptable, and to influence their teams and organizations to be adaptable, too.
3. VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous
Another layer of complexity comes from the ’known and unknown unknowns’ of the modern world, which bring the old VUCA challenge including issues such as:
What then is inclusive leadership?
Inclusive leadership is a style of leadership that demonstrates:
The business case for inclusive leadership
These are several ways in which inclusive leadership benefits bottom line success:
For leaders to become more inclusive, they need to make a point of soliciting the opinions and contributions of people with whom they would not normally engage.
And for organizations to encourage inclusive leadership, they need to create environments that reduce social isolation, allow the safe expression of different views, where relationships of respect predominate, where the value of diversity and its impact on the bottom line are strategically imbedded, and where shared goals are transparently pursued.
In practical terms leaders should:
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