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Inclusive leadership: a miracle cure

Posted on by from Buckinghamshire New University

What specifically is inclusive leadership and how can it help your organisation?

Miracle management tool

Want to boost productivity, engagement and diversity in your organisation? The good news is that a single step will solve these problems for you. The magic bullet is ‘Inclusive Leadership’.  

Research that I undertook for the Employers Network on Equality and Inclusion (enei) and sponsored by the CIPD, EY, Santander and Affinity Sutton, showed that people working for organisations with inclusive leaders reported themselves as more productive and engaged than those working for non-inclusive leaders. What is more, this positive finding applied to members of diverse groups too and given what we know about the boost to diversity provided by inclusive cultures, we could expect to see enhancements in diversity levels over time. As Dan Robertson, Director of inclusion and diversity at enei says: ‘We have known for some while that diversity flourishes in an inclusive culture  but views have differed on the leadership behaviours needed to create this. It was vital to commission research that would produce a robust model that organisations could get behind’.

The good news for organisations is that we now have clear, well validated competencies for inclusive leaders and findings that show that inclusive leadership not only boosts productiveness, satisfaction and engagement amongst diverse groups but amongst the population at large. In fact, the survey findings from a sample of just 1000 people across eleven public and private sector organisations showed a high and statistically significant positive correlation of 0.89 between the perceived presence of inclusive leadership in the generality of leadership in the organisation and self-perceptions of productiveness, satisfaction and engagement. So, the results revealed how inclusive leadership can deliver ‘Two for the price of one’ with generic as well as diversity-specific enhancements in the workplace.  What is more, with clear and robust competencies now identified, leaders’ skills can now be measured through an assessment instrument, available also in 360 degree format.

A brave new world

We are so used to reading bad news stories about low morale and productivity in British workforces that it may be difficult to believe that this negativity could be a thing of the past. Difficult also to believe that the extraordinarily low level of engagement of 35% of employees reported for the UK in 2006 (Truss et al) is not a given. However, as Nelson Mandela said, “It is always impossible until it’s done” and we now have the tools with which crank up productivity engagement and diversity. And, as Schumacher of ‘Small is beautiful’ fame reminded us, a crank is a small element in a machine that makes revolutions. So, using this tool will usher in a golden age in organisations.

Factors that have brought us here? One is a disenchantment on the part of the millennial generation, now 35% of the UK workforce with autocratic leadership and their desire to be valued for their whole self (Deloitte millennial survey, 2015). Other factors relate to a likely shift from short-term capitalism to long-term shared stakeholder capitalism, linked in turn to the greater volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) facing organisations (Wolf, 2007) and the recognition that diversity can enhance creativity and innovation.   

When you read ahead, remember that the model underpinning this newly defined form  of leadership is based on a unique combination of two well-respected models,‘transformational’ and ‘servant leadership’, setting the research apart from 88% of studies that do not refer to a theoretically established form of leadership. Appropriately enough, the research was conducted in an inclusive manner with the research team – myself, Dr Ceri Sims (Chartered Psychologist at my University), Dr Ian Dodds (D&I expert) and Alan David (strategy expert) – liaising closely with enei (the catalysts for the research), the organisational sponsors and 7 other organisations: Nationwide, Network Rail, the NHS, Page Personnel, Pearson, Pitney Bowes and Sodexo.

Unveiling the silver bullet

What does the leader look like who can transform their workplaces? In a nutshell, an inclusive leader is someone who is aware of their own biases and preferences; actively seeks out and considers different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making;  sees diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage; and inspires diverse people to drive organisational and individual performance towards a shared vision’.

In fact, an inclusive leader will have a repertoire of 15 precious competencies, with the first four derived from ‘transformational’ and the remaining 11 from ‘servant’ leadership:

Inclusive leader competencies

Individualised consideration 
Showing individual interest in followers

Idealised influence 
Having admirable qualities that followers want to identify with 

Inspirational motivation 
Providing an appealing vision 

Intellectual stimulation 
Encouraging followers to develop their ideas

Unqualified acceptance 
Being inclusive/ non-judgmental and accepting each follower as a unique individual 

Mental /emotional projection into followers’ perspectives

Actively listening to followers grasping the content, underlying meaning and emotional significance of opinions

Influencing followers rather than leading than through formal authority /coercion

Confidence building 
Providing followers with opportunities 

Encouraging followers to reach their full potential 

Able to anticipate where events may lead 

Having a vision about possibilities and articulating that vision to followers 

Being fully open and aware  

Being aware of the organisation’s legacy to society 

Helping followers cope with burdens/ personal troubles

One final point. The research showed that a context rich in delegation and exploration for new products/ services will provide more fertile territory for Inclusive Leadership than one that limits these aspects, and this in turn can produce greater innovation. So, in today’s VUCA environment, can anyone afford to ignore the miracle that is inclusive leadership? 


Deloitte (2015), Fourth millennial survey: mind the gaps, available at

Schumacher,   E.F. (1973),  Small is beautiful:  A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, London:  Vintage Books

Truss, C., Soane, E. and Edwards, C. (2006) Working life: employee attitudes and engagement. Research report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.  

Wolf, Daniel (2007). Prepared and Resolved: The Strategic Agenda for Growth, Performance and Change. dsb Publishing. p. 115


Gloria Moss

By Gloria Moss

Gloria is a professor of marketing and management at Buckinghamshire New University

Buckinghamshire New University

Buckinghamshire New University

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