In this Q&A session, we hear from Jane Farrell, Chief Executive & Co-Founder of EW Group, on what being an inclusive leader really means. We were also joined by Jane in our webinar, 'Achieving inclusive leadership', as part of our Disability Inclusion series.
Being an inclusive leader means that all aspects of advantage and disadvantage are considered and thought about in a holistic way. People are multi-dimensional and unfortunately some people experience more than one kind of discrimination and disadvantage, whether that is because of their gender, ethnicity, age, being disabled, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or a combination of these and other factors.
The traits of an inclusive leader include:
Awareness and understanding
Organisations are more effective and successful and happier when their leaders understand difference. Line managing people in a more sensitive way means staff are more loyal and committed, and more willing to make discretionary effort. Inclusive leadership also enables organisations to attract and retain the best talent, leading to greater creativity, ideas and innovation.
Respect and support
There is a direct correlation between people who feel respected and supported at work and productivity and engagement. When the principles of inclusive leadership are weaved into the DNA of an organisation and become part of its values, every single day, this leads to more successful and profitable business.
Recognition and willingness to adapt
Inclusive leadership is also about recognising that change can impact people differently. Organisational changes, for example, will impact some groups more than others, and it is about being sensitive and aware of this and making sure that certain groups are not disproportionately and unfairly disadvantaged.
Proactive approach for equal opportunities
Inclusive leadership also means people do not just choose the people that look like themselves for the promotions or acting-up positions. It creates a level playing field and gives everyone a fair chance regardless of who they are or what they look like.
It is important that leaders demonstrate the ability to listen to what people in their organisations say and feel about their experience in and out of work. It is difficult to be an excellent leader without understanding the lived experiences of your colleagues.
By ensuring different voices are heard and allowing people who may not normally speak up in meetings to do so, they will feel empowered, valued and supported.
Truly inclusive cultures are made when equality, diversity and inclusion is not an afterthought. ‘Firefighting’ as opposed to developing a proactive stance on diversity and the policies and processes that underpin it will have far greater and longer lasting benefits.
Some important steps when working towards building an inclusive culture include:
If organisations have strong ethical values, want to attract and retain the best talent, design and deliver the best products and services, have an inclusive culture that leverages and celebrates difference, then disability will be a key dimension to their D&I strategy, and their business strategy too.
Jane Farrell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of EW Group. She is a specialist in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, and organisational development. Her proactive approach to diversity and inclusion is founded upon a passion for building on existing best practice, weaving diversity and inclusion into everything, and focusing on pragmatic solutions.