Most people will agree that good leadership fuels performance. But what is good leadership? Some believe leading with a carrot brings out the best in people, whilst others believe people need strict boundaries to perform at their best.
The truth is that good leadership looks different in different contexts. It’s subjective; varying from company to company, team to team, project to project.
This is where leadership models come in; they can help assess a leader against the context of their environment. A good leader in one business might not necessarily be as successful in another.
At NSCG, our leadership framework looks at six key competencies: Leads others, understands self, delivers results, leads inclusively, thinks strategically and collaborates with impact. It’s been created, tried and tested by our experts who have decades of experience helping organisations accelerate performance. Grounded in globally recognised frameworks, our model evolves traditional theory to bring in line with the context of leading in the present day.
This series lifts the lid on these competencies, sharing insights from some of our experts. Here Lubna Haq shares just what it takes to be able to be an inclusive leader…
With research indicating that 1 in 4 employees don’t feel like they belong and only 31% stating that they believe leaders are inclusive, it shines a light on the work that still needs to be done when it comes to inclusive leadership.
Inclusive leadership isn’t just about the ability to manage a diverse workforce. Yes, it’s about a leader’s ability to yes create a culture without bias and allow individuals to feel valued and a sense of belonging, but also to leverage that diversity to better address diverse customer bases, markets, ideas, and talent pools.
There are three key traits that underpin this: building inclusive teams, promoting diversity and connecting people.
Build inclusive teams
Modern leaders need to focus on building a climate of belonging where every voice is heard, opportunities are equitably distributed, and conflict is sensitively resolved. With numbers such as the aforementioned, it’s not enough to just pay lip service; organisations need to act. In our experience, many organisations delay getting started on new ED&I initiatives, through a fear of getting it wrong or concerns that links to other workforce and talent initiatives are not yet fully thought through. However, leaders make more ground with inclusion where they have the courage to try new things and are prepared to trial initiatives and to make mistakes and learn from them – far more effective than doing nothing at all. Creating a space and environment where people are comfortable enough to share their ideas, thoughts, and importantly concerns, freely allows them to feel comfortable where they work. Leaders who role model a passion to understand others and to seek and embrace different perspectives, build trust and establish psychological safety.
In hiring, leaders who live this competency make a conscious effort not to hire in their own image, being aware of their own personal and unconscious biases and being willing to embrace building a team that pushes them and thinks differently to them and will challenge their thinking.
You can delve deeper into the impacts of Psychological Safety in our deep dive long-form piece here.
This trait is all about seeking out and embracing different perspectives. Such leaders demonstrate that they value diverse thinking and are more likely to create a workplace where people can be comfortable in taking risks, thinking outside the box and are comfortable expressing their opinions. This mindset values team members from different backgrounds, thinking styles and lived experiences.
In multinational work environments this also means a leader having their cultural antennae up- executing a plan in one market doesn’t equate with it being well received in another.
Leaders who are committed to building inclusive teams understand the importance of connecting people in meaningful ways. This involves bringing different perspectives together, often by widening their network beyond usual or obvious stakeholders.
We hear many leaders discussing the difficulty of connecting teams in a hybrid working world where flexibility is valued. Leaders demonstrating this trait will vary meet up arrangements and communication channels, utilising technologies so that team members feel empowered to contribute their best. These leaders also make a point of knowing their people and celebrate those who consistently exhibit the right behaviours and attitudes, even if they aren’t always in the spotlight for delivering big ticket results. Ensuring that not only those in the limelight or highly visible roles are rewarded sends a powerful message about your organisation’s commitment to its values and its people.