Effective strategies for inclusive leadership focus on creating an environment of shared responsibility, open communication, and offering equal opportunity for growth for all.
Strategies for Inclusive Leadership and Unlocking Diversity Potential
Inclusive leadership refers to the management approach that exudes a genuine commitment to achieving diversity. Modern organizations are evaluated by the success of their internal cultures which respond to contemporary societal trends (Barak, 2016). Presently, organizations are deriving their competitive advantages out of the efficiency of value co-creation. In this approach, organizations appraise the contributions of all stakeholders to address value needs. Beyond the creation of competitive advantage, inclusive leadership enables organizations to build sustainable growth foundations. There are numerous other advantages of developing inclusive leadership. Whereas the aspect of social responsibility and moral obligation is essential, the overarching context of existence within a competitive global environment is urgent (Boekhorst, 2015). Most importantly, the role of inclusive leadership in unlocking the diversity potential cannot be overstated.
Figure 1: The Diversity Paradox
Courtesy, Mo Barak, 2017, pg. 226.
Despite this, incorporating diversity remains a big challenge for most organizations. Despite their admiration for the benefits of inclusivity, many organizations struggle to achieve them. From the review of extant literature, the process of achieving diversity is presented as a journey guided by three pillars. The primary pillar is inclusive leadership. Then, there are two supporting pillars; accepting responsibility and dismantling stereotypes. One may ask why inclusivity should be a priority to management. First, this approach represents a moral imperative for organizations. Secondly, inclusivity and diversity broaden the talent pool for organizations (Barak, 2016). As a result, organizations become more efficient and responsive to the needs of stakeholders. As such, a body of research has arisen with the aim of highlighting some of the strategies through which inclusive leadership can be developed within an organization.
The reviews existing literature on inclusive leadership determines the most feasible and practical strategies for inculcating inclusivity for organizational leadership and examine how this unlocks an organization's diversity potential.
Figure 2: Inclusion: The Key to the Diversity Paradox Dilema
Courtesy, Mo Barak, 2017, pg. 226
According to Barak (2016), the framework for inclusive leadership is premised on four strategies; belonging, growth, voice, and objectivity.
The first step towards achieving inclusive leadership is to ensure that all managerial decisions remain objective at all time and driven by appropriate data. The essence of this approach lies in the equitable outcomes which result and the sense of fairness to the workforce which is derived. Management which relies on objectivity to define its strategic and operational decisions ensures reduced employee turnover boosts performance, raises employee commitment to the organization, and generates an environment of satisfaction. As Boekhorst (2015) notes, decision-making approaches which are perceived to be appropriate help to improve employee retention and assist in building cohesive teams. There are three ways of achieving objectivity.
First, inclusive leadership must be tethered on the constant desire to establish clarity and transparency in people processes. Leaders need to design processes which are structured and ensure that those processes reach the employees in a manner that they can perceive them as fair. For example, the employ appraisal processes must exhibit fairness, especially to employees who are underrepresented. Secondly, specificity when giving feedback promotes a shared understanding of the objectives of the organization. Leadership must confront and address unconscious bias exhibited by the management control system. The use of data to expound to simplify feedback can help create mutual trust and respect. Lastly, the leader needs to document their important decisions. This way, leadership is not solely dependent on quick decisions, but such decisions exhibit a high level of consistency. Documentation of decisions slows down the pace of decision making and incorporates an interrogative element to it. In this regard, the resulting decisions are refined. The outcomes are more equitable and accommodative for all players.
Figure 3: Circular Two-Stage Process of Diversity and Inclusion
Courtesy, Mo Barak, 2017, pg. 229.
Sense of Belonging
The second strategy for establishing inclusive leadership is to utilize approaches which make all employees feel valued and respected. Such an environment builds in the employee the confidence to express themselves more authentically within the workplace. The moment an employee perceives the management treatment as instigating a sense of belonging in them, they improve their engagement levels, they become psychologically stable and are more persevering (Nair, & Vohra, 2015). Leaders can apply the following three approaches to bring about a sense of involvement that will promote their inclusive leadership.
Figure 4: The Path to Inclusivity
Courtesy, Mo Barak, 2017, pg. 228.
First, leaders need to promote representation as well as proactively support efforts that result in organizational inclusion. Diversity in the workplace reduces employee worries about fitting in. Besides encouraging diversity within their organizations, inclusive leadership also entails leaders consistently vouching for the direction of the company to lead to more diversity. Through the use of events, resource groups, and advocacy for inclusion, leaders become more connected with the individual. In essence, organizational growth manifests through the growth of individuals and the subsequent efficiency of teams.
Secondly, leaders need to develop management systems from which new employees perceive a sense of belonging from their first interaction with the organization. One effective way to achieve this is through the use of onboarding programs which inculcate in the new employee a sense of community. In their study, Nair and Vohra (2015) determined that simple acts like managers receiving new hires and introducing them to the organization are an effective way to build a sense of community within the organization. Thirdly, leaders can organize inclusive events. Through social activities, the organization can break the aura of formality which could be a barrier to open engagements and communication.
Diversity and Inclusion Policy-Practice Decoupling
Courtesy, Mo Barak, 2017, pg. 231.
The third element of inclusive leadership is the capacity to arouse a sense of safety for everyone to express themselves and to share their ideas with other people within the organization. Naturally, several demographic factors contribute to the disparity in the ability to express oneself. As such, employees who are deficient of these qualities find it hard to share. Inclusive leadership, therefore, involves creating an environment that is fair for all. This environment is achievable through any of three approaches (Carmeli, Reiter-Palmon, & Ziv, 2010).
First, a leader must possess the ability to reflect on their communication preferences. The communication preferences of their leaders influence organizational teams. Therefore, when the leader reflects on their communication preferences and monitors the traits that teams pick can guide their understanding of the barriers which limit communication and collaborative interactions. Leaders need to create a balance between the time reserved for the management and that reserved for employees during plenary sessions. This balance must reflect in the time provided for every employee who has something to share.
Secondly, leaders need to establish and communicate the norms that guide meetings. Having an engagement policy which limits interruption and promotes giving everyone a chance to voice their concerns, opinions or ideas can be a good starting point. Turn-taking possesses the most significant potential for meaningful engagements. The other useful method for leaders is to provide note cards so that the more talkative employees can instead jot down their ideas and pass them across. Thirdly, another strategy to bring about inclusivity is to reserve a chance for the quitter team members to share their opinions. While such members may not survive in an environment which promotes aggressiveness, inviting them to contribute makes them feel like part of the team (Ryan, 2016).
A fundamental element of inclusive leaders is their propensity to initiate and support environments which offer all employees the opportunity to uniformly advance their skills, develop their leadership capacities, and to grow individually and as part of a team. This level of independence and coexistence is achievable when the leader supports the employee's growth process (Ferdman, Avigdor, Braun, Konkin, & Kuzmycz, 2010). Leaders can use three strategies to foster employee growth. First, leaders need to focus on the process and not on the individual. Leaders must avoid vague feedbacks. Instead, they need to focus their feedback on employee behavior, methods, and tactics, which are standard features on which the employees get evaluated.
Secondly, the leader has to learn to address failures and mistakes openly. By involving everyone in addressing mistakes, the leader develops the understanding of a mistake as a breakdown in the system which connects everyone. Lastly, the leader needs to distribute time across all teams. The leader must avoid bias when distributing responsibilities but focus on employee skill level and competence, factors of which hiring is based.
Inclusion and diversity characterize modern high-functioning organizations. Diversity and inclusion in organizational operations are characterized by innovativeness, an abundance of ideas and growth in environments characterized by systemic disparities. In the traditional context, diversity is perceived in the context of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and several other attributes that are inherent among employees. However, within organizational setups, it can be acquired by bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and offering them the same opportunities to explore their potential. Inclusive leadership promotes an organizational culture that fosters respect, empowerment, and equality in participation. Employees in such organizations possess behavioral, cognitive identity, and affective differences. Despite this, however, they find a level playing field which allows them to work together for a personal, team and organizational growth.
Leaders achieve inclusivity and promote diversity when they adopt approaches that promote a shared purpose. The leader needs to determine to assign a one-to-one relationship between employees and their competencies. This way, the employee feels appreciated, and the system optimizes their potential. Inclusive leadership also involves the creation of an environment which is favorable for transparent communication (Ryan, 2016). This approach extends to feedback. The leader must be perceived to favor consistency in fairness and equality in their choice of decisions. As such, inclusive leadership will be achievable when the decision-making process is involving and promotes accountability through documentation.
In conclusion, an inclusive leader possesses at least six traits; curiosity, cognizance, courage, cultural intelligenc...
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