People like to have a voice. And they like to have their voices heard. Inclusivity and a focus on diversity provide intelligent leaders with an opportunity to give their employees a seat at the proverbial table, endow them with a voice, and listen to what they say.

Inclusive leadership boosts decision-making, employee engagement, teamwork, and innovation. Implement it in your organization.


“Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists. It is making a new space, a better space for everyone.” – George Dei.

Intelligent leaders understand that while diversity is a program, inclusivity is a mindset. They know there is no true organizational diversity without inclusivity.


Inclusive leadership is about creating an organizational culture and environment where everyone feels safe, respected, valued, and eager to contribute, irrespective of individual backgrounds, perspectives, and identities.

Inclusive leadership is effective leadership. It improves decision-making by opening new perspectives leaders can use to consider their decisions from alternative angles. It enhances employee engagement and empowers people to contribute their perspectives with confidence.

Inclusivity is antithetical to bias, prejudice, and discrimination. It improves teamwork and cooperation and sets the stage for an innovation-focused culture.


Inclusivity is a strength.

As a leadership coaching expert, I understand the many ramifications of inclusive leadership and its positive effects on organizational performance. In this article, I detail some of these ramifications, including the roles of inclusive leaders and cultures, and I make a strong business case for inclusive leadership.

Defining Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership is an intentional effort to create an environment where people are eager to hear diverse voices and perspectives. Inclusive leadership provides equal opportunities for professional advancement and personal growth.

As a leadership coach, I would define the core tenets of inclusive leadership as follows:

  • Understanding the value of diversity
  • Knowing the difference between diversity and inclusivity
  • Fostering a sense of belonging
  • Empowering people
  • Prioritizing trust and respect
  • Embracing change
  • Leading by example
  • Encouraging open dialogue and feedback
  • Celebrating accomplishments

Traditional leadership tends to treat people as tools of production, deeming individual perspectives superfluous. Inclusive leadership is intelligent leadership. It celebrates diverse perspectives, deriving concrete and subtle organizational advantages from them.

Inclusive leaders foster diversity by prioritizing equity and inclusion. They forge cultures where individuals thrive for the benefit of their teams and organizations.

The Business Case for Inclusive Leadership

Organizational performance and individual employee happiness are inextricably intertwined. Only happy, empowered employees can gain genuine psychological ownership of organizational goals. That explains why inclusive leadership is beneficial for organizations in so many ways.

  • Innovation. Inclusive organizations are more innovative and open to change. The diversity of perspectives they harness allows them to identify and exploit emerging trends better.
  • Employee engagement and empowerment. An inclusive organizational culture allows employees to make meaningful contributions, thus gaining psychological ownership of the organization’s values and objectives.
  • Better decisions. Employees who feel they belong to a community bring a multitude of diverse perspectives to the table. They contribute alternative ways of thinking, expanding their leaders’ ability to think outside the proverbial box.
  • Talent retention. Employees are less likely to leave a community to which they feel they belong. Employee empowerment and genuine engagement trump higher pay.
  • Teamwork and collaboration. In an inclusive environment, people are more likely to assume ownership of common goals. And where people want to achieve common goals, collaboration and teamwork thrive.
  • Reputation and image. People appreciate emotionally intelligent, forward-looking, and inclusive organizations. A positive public perception can give a brand a significant practical boost.

Inclusive organizations perform better than their non-inclusive counterparts. We know that for a fact. It’s not just a theory or the result of wishful thinking on the part of leadership coaching experts.

make things better

Inclusivity boosts organizational performance.

Microsoft took significant steps toward inclusivity and diversity under CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership. Addressing issues from parental leaves to unconscious bias, the organization emerged as one of the most innovative and competitive tech companies, maintaining its global trendsetter status.

The Role of Inclusive Leaders

Leaders set examples and trends and create cultures around the purpose and values of their organizations. They have the power to shape organizational cultures, including the aspects relating to inclusivity and diversity. Some inclusivity-defining leadership behaviors and characteristics are:

  • Open-mindedness. Inclusive leaders are receptive to change and new ideas. They value others’ contributions regardless of their backgrounds, identities, and perspectives.
  • Empathy. Leadership empathy is one of the cornerstones of inclusive leadership. Only leaders capable of putting themselves in others’ shoes can truly understand their employees.
  • Active listening. To understand someone, beyond empathy and emotional intelligence, a leader must be able to listen to concerns, ideas, and contributions, understanding the emotions and intellectual processes that serve as their sources.
  • Intelligent leaders are proactive. They understand that as primary molders of organizational cultures and consensus, it is their responsibility to promote inclusivity and diversity through intentional efforts.
  • Courage. Advocating for positive change requires courage. Intelligent leaders know that they must challenge the status quo through their efforts to facilitate inclusivity and they don’t shy away from doing so.
  • Effective leaders hold themselves and others accountable. Accountability and promptness are essential for shaping behaviors and effecting lasting change.

Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer built her leadership around diversity and inclusivity. She sought to address the issue of racial and gender disparities in her organization’s leadership ranks. Her diversity-focused efforts took shape through effective mentorship initiatives and training programs.

Creating an Inclusive Culture

It is every intelligent leader’s privilege to create a culture of inclusivity and push for diversity. Here are some practical steps you can take in this sense:

  • Establish clear diversity and inclusivity goals. Ambiguity is the enemy of action. Clarity lets people know what they have to do to achieve alignment with their organizations’ diversity and inclusivity-facing values. Clear goals also allow leaders to hold themselves and others accountable.
  • Diversity training and education. People may need education to identify and defeat their unconscious biases and tendencies to judge others.
  • Create opportunities for underrepresented voices to contribute to the discussion. Underrepresented voices may struggle to contribute effectively. Diverse leadership makes an intentional effort to give these voices a stage and allow them to contribute their unique perspectives.
  • Foster open communication. Open communication facilitates the exchanging of ideas, creating a safe space where people feel encouraged to contribute and make a difference.
  • Celebrate diversity. The celebration of diversity can take different forms. Inclusive organizations may celebrate the accomplishments of employees with different cultures, identities, and perspectives. They may also incorporate the theme of diversity in their branding.


Diversity makes us stronger.

Multinational consumer goods company Unilever implemented several initiatives to facilitate and celebrate diversity within the ranks of its employees. One such initiative was the “Unstereotype” campaign that targeted the marketing campaigns of the organization.

The company also runs inclusion-supporting programs for women, minorities, and underrepresented voices.

Overcoming Challenges

Resistance to change can take many forms. In the case of inclusivity-related changes, people can be surprisingly creative in conjuring up obstacles. Some of the problems inclusivity-leaning leaders may encounter are:

  • Tokenism. Aiming for the appearance of diversity instead of genuine diversity results in token individuals included in the workplace. Such individuals often don’t get opportunities to advance or contribute since their presence is their purpose, and not what they bring to the proverbial table.
  • Unconscious bias. We may carry biases we never realize are there. It takes specialized education to uncover the existence of these biases and eliminate them.
  • Systemic inequities. Some employees may have fewer opportunities due to their identities, perspectives, race, etc.
  • Bad communication and lack of transparency. Some workplaces discourage contributions through their tedious and intimidating communication practices.
  • Lack of accountability. When people don’t hold themselves accountable, they risk reducing inclusivity-focused initiatives to token gestures.

To overcome these obstacles to diversity, leaders can:

  • Focus on self-awareness and education
  • Actively promote diversity and inclusion
  • Provide a strong leadership example
  • Empower employees and communicate effectively
  • Review policies and challenge the status quo
  • Hold themselves and others accountable
  • Communicate the advantages of inclusivity often
  • Create organizational cultures that facilitate a sense of belonging

To ensure the efficacy of their inclusion-focused efforts, leaders must find ways to measure the progress they and their organizations make.

Measuring Progress and Accountability

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” – Peter Drucker.

To manage organizational inclusivity and diversity, leaders must find metrics and methods they can use to measure the progress they make in this direction. How can you assess the inclusivity of your organization? Here’s a selection of qualitative and quantitative metrics you can use:

  • Pay equity. Consider variables like the gender pay gap and racial pay equity.
  • You can measure diversity-related variables like hiring and promotion rates, workforce diversity, and leadership representation.
  • Employee satisfaction. You can use surveys to determine your employees’ level of engagement and satisfaction.
  • Employee retention. Use exit interviews with employees leaving the organization to identify potential pain points and gaps in satisfaction.
  • Evaluation fairness. You can analyze your organization’s performance ratings by demographic group to spot possible biases and skewed results.
  • Supplier diversity. It is relatively straightforward to determine the procurement percentages your organization allocates to different suppliers.

Global consulting services company Accenture implemented a range of diversity-focused programs and tracked its diversity outcomes consistently. It kept tabs on the participation and representation of women, LGBTQ individuals, ethnic minorities, and other demographic groups on every organizational level.


Relying on the data it collected when assessing the efficacy of its programs, the company fine-tuned its approach to diversity, improving its metrics and bottom line and earning many accolades.

Leading by Example

Workplace leadership is the top factor in establishing and shaping cultures that value, seek, and promote diversity and inclusion. Leading by example is always the most effective way to lead. To promote diversity, leaders must model inclusion-focused behaviors we’ve discussed in this article. They must make the values that define diversity and inclusion their own and live their lives according to them.

Leaders define organizational cultures through their behaviors, actions, and decisions.

Intelligent leaders understand that being diversity-focused is a journey that calls for an open mind and continuous education.

Through diversity and inclusion, leaders and organizations can create a sense of belonging in their employees. Diversity allows people to have a seat at the table. Inclusion grants them a voice. Belonging provides them an ear to listen to what they have to say.

By embracing inclusion and diversity, leaders can have an undeniable positive impact on their organizations and the lives of their employees. Thus, they can achieve the ultimate goal and purpose of intelligent leadership.

Inclusivity is not a responsibility or a trend that compels one to keep up. It is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to drive positive change and unlock the personal and professional potential of your employees.

contact us

Back to blog