Updated: May 16
Inclusive leadership is a necessity for modern day progressive organisations. It supports and enhances working environments, effective branding and marketing and increased productivity and growth.
What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion and how can they be used to manage 'group think' across leadership?
Diverse leadership is the sustenance of inclusion and inclusive leadership is key to building a diverse and inclusive organisation. Without it, there is little hope that any business will develop to a culture that promotes growth and delivers sustainable change, to keep up with a rapidly changing environment.
An organisation that does not seek to embed diversity and inclusion, has already, in some form or another, accepted the maintenance of the status quo as the organisational norm. Such organisations have failed to understand the sustainable business benefits of a diverse leadership.
The problem with this, is that these businesses, are at risk of submitting to declining levels of output and reduced employee and customer engagement, resulting in reduced quality outcomes.
Unmasking Homogeneous Leadership
Homogeneous leadership propagates group think and group think is bad for business. It negatively impacts on productivity and impedes the ability to solve problems creatively.
An homogeneous group, by its very nature, is tied together by the similarity of its characteristics. This means that the scope for creativity and innovative thinking is limited by lack of diversity.
Where leadership is constricted by homogeneity, it suggests that there is a level of exclusion of other characteristics, which is either implied or applied.
Leadership should not be an exclusive entity within an organisation. It is an integral part of the business and should naturally replicate the diversity of its clients, customers and employee base, both current and potential.
When leadership is homogeneous, it tends to attract others of its own liking, which only serves to reduce quality of outcomes, limiting both business growth and impact.
Diverse and Inclusive Leadership - How Exclusion lowers Engagement and Earnings
Lack of leadership diversity is tantamount to loss of productivity, staff engagement and creativity. Ultimately, this shrinks business earnings. Diverse and inclusive leadership enhances the quality of decision making, creativity and innovation, helping to drive brand image and customer engagements.
A diverse and inclusive leadership team helps to foster the engagement with a wide spectrum of people and ideas, thus enabling the increase in engagement with employees and other stakeholders.
The resulting benefit is that continuous, incremental improvements in employee productivity, creativity and innovation are realised. This, in turn, leads to an increase in business earnings.
The ability to interpret the development of goods and services, through a diverse and inclusive approach, leads to goods and services that become highly marketable. It helps to engage a wide range of prospective customers and clients.
The incorporation of diverse ideas, gained from a wide scope of cultural perspectives helps to engage employees and develop innovative teams. It helps to develop innovative thinking, helping to elevate the quality of leadership.
Diversity of ideas within leadership, systematically encourages input from a wide range of diverse stakeholders, both internally and externally.
Forward thinking, proactive leadership seeks to enhance outcomes by developing diverse approaches and frames of reference, across all business functions. Hence, diversity at all levels within the business is linked to a progressive working environment and a favourable business outlook.
Diversity Is About Inclusive Leadership Perspective
Effective leadership is about the diversity of leadership perspective. The ability and willingness of Boards and senior management to build strategies, through well developed leadership skills and practices, is a catalyst for better business practice. It is also integral to the competitiveness of a business and supports growth.
Where leadership is characterised by its 'sameness', it can be readily identifiable by its cultural, social, gender and racial homogeneity. Lack of diversity is limiting to business, and limitations become visible in the quality of overall business results.
The problem with exclusivity within leadership, is that it can foster exclusion. The similarities presented by background, educational status, lifestyle, culture etc, make it difficult to step away from the norms of the group and develop creative and innovative 'out of the box' solutions.
Hallmarks of Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion can be characterised as important hallmarks of better business practice. Inclusive leaders learn from others around them, and have the ability to extract the benefits of difference to develop better problem solving skills.
Incorporating diversity of opinions and understanding, learned from cultural and other differences, presents the ideal opportunity to incorporate diversity into decision making processes. This enables leadership to step away from traditional solutions, creating new and valuable benchmarks of innovation, workplace relations and competitiveness.
Inclusive leadership must be an intentional characteristic of a progressive business, as it serves to propagate a mindset of growth, innovation and best practice solutions.
A business perspective that embeds diversity and inclusion within its leadership functions, is likely to be well led and supportive to the needs of all stakeholders.
Diversity as a Driver of Creativity and Innovation
Creativity, as a business value, is not maximised by status or hierarchy. Rather, it is harnessed by the willingness of leadership to build diversity into the systems and structures of the business.
It is supported by effective corporate governance around the diversity agenda and implies the effective management of staff teams in a diverse and inclusive working environment.
Inclusion leadership fosters belonging and connections that enable leaders to communicate effectively on all levels. This includes a well developed understanding of cultural competency and the ability to communicate with openness and transparency.
Effective leaders promote inclusion as part of leadership style, helping to drive inclusive practice across the business.
In essence, inclusive leadership embodies the ability utilise diverse and creative thinking. It is observed through an authentic willingness to encompass, and embrace diversity and inclusion.
Managing Group Think In Leadership
Managing 'group think' is the beginning of the road to enabling diversity and inclusion.
Where there is exclusion, there is likely trouble ahead! No organisation can hope to reside at the helm of innovative business practice, if it is not engaging with diversity and inclusion as a crucial area of business growth.
The same experiences create the same solutions. By diversifying the leadership of a business, an increased level of decision making is realised.
The end result is a stronger, more resilient business, that is attractive to customers, clients and potential recruits.
Developing strategies and solutions for growth and the development of effective teams, includes actions to develop inclusive leadership. It incorporates the development of leadership understanding of how reframing organisational culture is important in building inclusive organisations.
Employees will not feel able to give of their best in an environment that is characterised by homogeneous leadership, and where they feel disengaged. Nurturing diversity and inclusion is key to employee engagement.
Leadership is a Communicator of Brand Values
Leadership is an important communicator of brand values. If leadership is homogeneous, the values of sameness are the ones being promoted.
It serves to promote the business to a specific clientele and attracts talent of a similar likeness. This is not necessarily what a business wants, or needs!
Brand image should place a substantial value on diversity and inclusion. It is important however, that brand image does not focus exclusively on marketing based on imagery of 'diversity' alone.
The company itself must actively promote diversity and inclusion as a part of its complete makeup, and this includes policy, practice and leadership style.
This will set the tone for how a business communicates both internally and externally. If diversity is not one of your key values, it becomes difficult to communicate it as an authentic value.
Potential Stakeholders Value Inclusion
Potential talent, clients, customers and other stakeholders, are apt to vet company culture on the internet, through website searches and social media.
If they don't see themselves represented, this has a negative impact on your business. If they do not see diversity and inclusion as a core them of your corporate social responsibility agenda, then this will also have a marked effect on their perception of your business.
This must be a key concern for any business that is serious about product branding and making business attractive to a wide variety of potential customers, clients and talent.
Every employee has a responsibility to drive company culture and promote the values of the business. However, the responsibility for the promotion of diversity and inclusion, lies within management approach. Inclusive leadership is a key aspect of promotion of the values a business embodies.
Without representation of a wide range of people, the ability to communicate inclusive brand values, will inevitably prove to be a difficult, if not impossible task to achieve.
Diversity and Inclusion Requires Management
Managing leadership diversity will not become a sustainable process, if it is not part of company DNA. A diverse and inclusive organisational / business culture supports business growth. Diversity is increasingly being understood as a key component of learning and quality management.
Inclusive leadership is an engaging space. It ensures that employees, stakeholders, customers and clients feel supported and able to contribute openly.
Diversity is not a corrective action, nor one that should be superficially applied across leadership to make it appear inclusive.
When diversity is applied cosmetically, it implies that it is a corrective action and thus fosters isolation. There is significant utility in developing a joined up approach to developing diversity and promoting inclusion.
Developing Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion is a business imperative and for it to be sustainable, it must be part of the fabric of your business. Without inclusive leadership, a business is a one dimensional entity and is not going to reap the business benefits of diversity and inclusion.
Diversity of thought builds stronger, more intelligent and productive businesses. It is time that more businesses seek to build inclusive leadership.
We're not talking here about recruiting by numbers, to make leadership seem more inclusive through the visual 'appearance' of diversity! We're talking about building diversity into core leadership development training and development.
We're talking about embedding diversity into the recruitment and retention strategies of the business and into management structures, processes and business activities.
Closing note: Don't wait until there are problems to embed diversity into leadership.
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Kenroi Consulting is a bespoke diversity consultancy business providing tailor made solutions across the UK.