4 Ways to Become a More Inclusive Leader

Do you encourage and develop the best in your team? Do you shine the spotlight on others’ accomplishments? Do you make sure everyone’s voice is heard? If you can answer yes to these questions, you are an inclusive leader.

Leadership today demands that executives are inclusive, according to Korn Ferry’s Inclusive Leader report.

How to grow in the most punishing market.
Michelle Gass, President, EMEA, Starbucks
Susan Gilchrist, Group Chief Executive, Brunswick Group
 Moderator: Stephanie Mehta, Fortune Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit
Flickr photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune

The report shows that when employees work with an inclusive leader, there are key benefits for the entire organization, including:

  • improved collaboration
  • higher productivity
  • greater employee engagement
  • increased motivation
  • greater innovation, and
  • enhanced potential for greater market share.

What can you do to make your workplace more inclusive? By incorporating more of the following traits into your everyday leadership.

4 Leadership Traits of an Inclusive Leader: How Many Do You Have?

As an inclusive leader, you would exhibit the following traits, according to a Catalyst study, Inclusion Matters:

  • You empower others – You enable your team to develop and excel.
  • You create accountability – You hold them responsible for their job performance.
  • You’re courageous – You put personal interests aside to get the job done.
  • You exhibit humility – You’re open to other points of view.

Here’s how to bring more of these qualities into your leadership styleShare the power

As a leader, you need to constantly look for new ways to encourage, engage and empower your team. The status quo won’t do. Here are some ways to do that:

Share the Power

Don’t second guess them. An inclusive leader will trust her team. “A lot of us as leaders are willing to allow our team members to make decisions, but want to step in as soon as we see something done differently than we would do,” says Brad Lomenick, author of The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials to Becoming a Change Maker.  “Don’t make that mistake. It is totally demoralizing to your team.”

Fight for them. Your team needs to know you’re on their side. “Whether it’s standing up for them to your boss, or standing beside them and supporting them in a disagreement with a vendor,” says Lomenick, “always be willing to go to battle for them.”

Hold your team accountable

How do you walk that delicate line between keeping your team on task without looking like a micromanager? Here are some ways to create that culture of accountability:

Don’t play favorites. If anyone on your team sees others “not being held accountable,” says Kevin Daum, author of Roar! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle, in Inc.  “they’ll see little need to make the extra effort. Be consistent and diligent in your measurement and rewards.”

Hand over key projects. By putting the responsibility on them, they will feel responsible to get the job done right. “Once we allow team members to make key decisions,” says Lomenick, “now we have to allow them to own projects and feel the responsibility of completion, from start to finish.”

Take one (or a few) for the team

“Demonstrating leadership courage – whether it’s having an uncomfortable conversation, communicating when you don’t have all the answers, or making a decision to move ahead on a new project – can be scary,” says Susan Tardanico, CEO of the Authentic Leadership Alliance. But the inclusive leader must have a greater-than-average willingness to take calculated risks, by doing the following:

Dare to straight talk.  “Keep the lines of communication open, even when you don’t know all the answers,” says Tardanico. “Courageous leaders refuse to hide behind jargon and wiggle-words – they use straight-talk and are not afraid to say ‘I don’t know’.”

Make those tough decisions. When you’re faced with change and uncertainty, “it feels unsafe to commit to a decision and move ahead,” says Tardanico. “Avoid the crutch of ‘analysis paralysis’ and make the decision. Forward movement is always better than being stuck in place.” Lomenick agrees: Leaders are decision makers, and must do it constantly.”

Stay humble

Humility is an often neglected but key characteristic of good leadership. Here’s how to cultivate more humility into yours:

Seek out opinions. Humble leaders openly ask for input to ensure they have all the facts and are making the best decisions, says Arron Grow, author of How to Not Suck as a Manager. “No one person has all the answers. Effectively humble leaders are comfortable asking for input but can just as easily be decisive when the situation calls for it,” he adds.

Don’t micromanage. Micromanaging kills morale—and it isn’t very humble. “Choose good people, train them, then get out of the way and let them do their jobs,” says Grow. “The humble leader allows other’s strengths to work for the good of the team.”

As you become a more inclusive leader, you’ll be letting go of some of your power, some of your control and some of your key projects, but you’ll be gaining key leadership skills that make you more marketable, more promotable and more valuable.