Inclusive leaders focus on creating diverse workforces where every employee is respected, heard, and allowed to grow as far as their professional talents can take them. It’s a vital aspect of modern leadership. Inclusive leadership positions organizations to compete in a market with diverse consumers, clients, and talent.

While the importance of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion has emerged in recent years, the need for inclusive leadership has always been there. The best leaders assemble teams that exhibit diversity in opinions, life experiences, and professional skills. 

Inclusion goes beyond simply building teams of different genders, races, cultural backgrounds, and economic statuses. It requires the direct involvement of smart leaders who keep teams focused on achieving strategic goals.

The Benefits of Inclusive Leadership

The ethical case for inclusive leadership is something everyone understands. No one should feel disrespected, ignored, or unheard. Workplaces function better when all workers feel they have a stake in and an influence on company success.

It’s also statistically proven to enhance performance. The Harvard Business Journal reports that teams with inclusive leaders are 17 percent more likely to

to say they are high performing. They also are 20 percent more likely to say they make high-quality decisions and 29 percent more likely to report collaborative behavior. Inclusive leadership that creates a 10 percent improvement in the perception was found to increase work attendance by one day per year per employee.

Other studies have shown a connection between diversity and innovation. Apple CEO Tim Cook succinctly summed it up this way: “I think the most diverse group will produce the best product. I firmly believe that.”

The Characteristics of Inclusive Leadership

There are a variety of approaches to inclusive leadership. Deloitte offers one conceptual framework that describes general characteristics of inclusive leadership that work well in the United States.

Commitment: Driven by their values, personal responsibility, and a sense of fairness (sometimes rooted in personal experience), successful leaders commit the time and energy required to cultivate a diverse, productive workforce.

Courage: Challenging entrenched organizational attitudes takes courage. Courageous, inclusive leaders must also have the humility to acknowledge and confront their limitations.

Cognizance of Bias: Inclusive leadership involves an awareness of the organizational biases that block objective decision-making. It also involves establishing standards and policies that prevent organizational and personal biases from interfering with diversity and inclusion.

Curiosity: Inclusive leaders must develop a mindset that focuses on learning, exposure to different ideas, and open-mindedness. They seek a diversity of viewpoints to improve their decision-making skills. They make every team member feel valued and respected while having the ability to synthesize many ideas.

Cultural Intelligence: This goes beyond book knowledge. Leaders must have an awareness of other cultures that allows them to modify their behavior in certain situations. Deloitte offers the example of an extroverted and demonstrative leader showing restraint when doing business with those from cultures that value modesty or humility.

Collaborative: Successful leaders are willing to share perspectives and create an environment where everyone is heard, respected, valued, and empowered to express opinions freely. This all comes from the realization that diversity is imperative for effective collaboration.

The Online Inclusive Leadership Certificate

The Kelley School of Business designed the Inclusive Leadership Online Certificate to provide inclusive leadership training to current and future leaders. The program offers a comprehensive understanding of workplace diversity and how the actions of leaders impact employees’ job performance and self-efficacy.

The spring semester for the online program runs for 12 weeks. The program involves four courses, each starting in the first full week of the month and running for three weeks. The courses include a weekly, 90-minute live session with faculty and students.

Participants will complete all four courses to earn the certificate. The cost for the certificate in spring 2022 is $3,200. The Kelley School of Business created the program to give leaders:

  • A comprehensive understanding of workforce diversity
  • An understanding of how the quality of a leader’s inclusive conduct affects employees’ self-confidence, quality of effort, achievement, motivation, and job performance
  • More awareness of hidden biases and how to diminish or eliminate them from their leadership behaviors
  • An understanding of the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to develop inclusive leadership
  • The ability to identify specific strategies to increase inclusive leadership competencies
  • The ability to apply inclusive leadership concepts to themselves, teams, and the organization

Inclusive leadership is key to success in the modern business world. Earning a certificate that builds on existing skills and focuses on diversity and inclusion can help leaders achieve their personal and professional goals.