Leadership isn’t a personality, it’s a practice. Organizations thrive when leadership is selfless and proactive and they suffer when leadership is ego driven and reactive. Top-down leadership may be effective in certain environments, but for the long term health and vitality of an organization, inclusive practices must be adopted.
Even the brightest of leaders can be blinded by their own egos. We’ve outlined characteristics of inclusive leaders that allow for a collaborative, constructive, and meaningful dynamic within an organization.
They Put Community First
First and foremost, inclusive leaders have the ability to swallow their ego and detach themselves from their personal motives. This doesn’t mean inclusive leaders don’t have goals, but their goals should align with the goals of the group. In order to become an inclusive leader your private gains will have to take a backseat to best interest of the group. Developing a shared vision is the foundation for sustained commitment, communication, and collaboration.
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
They Foster Collaboration
Inclusive leaders recognize the importance of including others in the decision making process. Fostering collaboration = more ideas = well rounded solutions. Showing interest in another person’s perspective gives them a sense of value or belonging. Getting to know what matters to your colleagues can create channels of open-ended communication supported by mutual understanding
“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.”
— Malcolm Forbes
Inclusive Leadership Breeds Inclusive Leadership
Leaders have many different opportunities to exercise their leadership style (one on one, small informal group settings, or during a larger, official meeting). Participants feed off the energy of the leader; this energy sets the tone and contributes to the culture of the organization. In order for leaders to be effective and inclusive, they must take a special focus on facilitation.
We’ve all been a part of a meeting where nobody felt heard and nothing got done. To some, facilitation means starting and ending a meeting on time. To an inclusive leader, facilitation is the process that leads the group towards meaningful action while synthesizing the thoughts, interests, and goals of the group as a whole.
They ensure everyone gets a chance to voice their opinion, and they are sure to include suggestions from a broad cross section of participants. It is extremely important the facilitator creates a safe, comfortable space for people to participate. If they feel like they should sit down and shut up, they most likely will. If they feel like they should contribute to the discussion, chances are they will.
They Empower Others
Inclusive leaders provide opportunity for others to take responsibility. They take pride in developing leaders. Promoting professional development is a large part of inclusive structures. Some people have a hard time letting go of the reins. When you empower your team members to take and share responsibility, you cultivate ownership. Developing ownership creates individual buy-in! People who help you develop a vision are more likely to remain supportive than people you convince to adopt your existing vision.
“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders.”
— Robert Townsend
Inclusive practices can be applied to many situations in and out of the professional realm. If you have an examples of effective attributes and practices of inclusive leaders please share in the comments below!