The power of inclusive leadership

It’s a buzzword and social media through to motivational speakers and consultants cannot get enough of themes around Inclusive leadership. But it’s more than simply a concept or a notion of conscience. Inclusion can hold significant gains for business and, too, the wellbeing of employees, which in turn, benefit the business.

It’s a value chain that benefits at both ends, when considered with a measured approach that combines both empathy and sound commercial principles.

And while the discourse around inclusive leadership isn’t new, the urgency has never been more palpable.

When I think of diversity, I see more than just varied races, genders, or age groups. I envision a collection of socioeconomic statuses, educational backgrounds, regional nuances, and even the myriad of personality types that grace our conference rooms. Each of these elements brings a unique perspective, and therein lies the real strength. But harnessing this strength requires more than just assembling a diverse team; it demands inclusive leadership.

Teams that embody diversity but lack inclusivity can be likened to untuned orchestras, a cacophy of audio that is in essence, nonsensical.  Each instrument, though magnificent on its own, will be unable to produce harmony in a noisy environment. Conversely, with inclusive leadership, the same diverse team can produce innovations, solutions, and strategies that are nothing short of symphonic.

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The evidence supporting inclusivity is overwhelming. Studies and real-workplace reportage has repeatedly shown that diverse teams, when led effectively and from an inclusionary approach can be  more creative, efficient, and resilient. Their ability to understand and cater to a multi-tiered audience or stakeholder set is unmatched. More than that, they foster environments where every member feels valued, driving up morale and retention. After all, when an employee feels heard, they also feel invested. No matter whether they work at the coalface or are suited up executives.

The path to inclusive leadership isn’t paved with mere intentions, empty words and social media posts or motivational quips about doing it. It requires actionable, practical steps. And while a landslide of articles, workshops, and seminars sell their value on this topic, there are a few simple actions that I have found to be effective and positive outcome driven.

In our mining environment, set in a remote area in one of the Nothern cape’s most arid areas, it has become particularly important to embrace a new way of thinking and to lead, by design, inclusively. It has yielded positive results amongst our employee body and concomitant to that, the communities where we operate.

Empathy is one of the most powerful aspects of inclusive leadership. Begin by seeing through the eyes of your employees. Endeavour to understand their challenges, dreams, and realities. By doing so, you lay the foundation of a culture where every individual feels seen and valued. Also, promote open dialogue and a culture where feedback and constructive discourse between all levels of an organisation is encouraged, not disparaged and feared. Create forums to enable this.

As leaders charged with every aspect of organisational success, our actions reverberate throughout companies. Look for diverse voices in meetings, seek opinions from varied teams, and show that every voice, no matter how different, has weight. Seek this out and actively demonstrate your willingness and encouragement for participation.

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By setting clear, simple and achievable goals, and not moving from these objectives, define what inclusivity looks like in your organisation. Track the progress. Communicate the tangible outcomes. Investing in training to this extent can also be highly useful, knowledge trickles down to every level in an organisation in a well orchestrated effort,

Importantly, actions speak louder than words. And adapt your approach to your organisational environment.

The possible impact of these simple initial steps go beyond just the company or organisation. The world is becoming increasingly socially conscious, an authentically inclusive company earns respect, loyalty, and trust from all its stakeholders. It’s not merely about being on the right side of history but also about forging a sustainable future for the business. Because when employees are invested, progress is inevitable.

Inclusive leadership and a halo approach around same can ripple-impact into social development programmes, employee participation in truly making a difference, not only in the workplace, but with the motivation to reprise a positive company culture in wider social terms.

Inclusion should not be a buzzword or a trend, a social media post or a profit line on the balance sheet of a motivational speaker. It is the very bedrock of sustainable success in today’s complex and at times highly volatile global economy.

  • Malcolm Curor is the chief executive of United Manganese of Kalahari.



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