Inclusive leadership seems to be a popular topic in the last few years, recognizing that the commanding style isn’t always the most effective. What do we mean by inclusive leadership? Strongly inclusive leaders show optimism, promote collaboration and are dependable. They may follow routines with which they are comfortable, enjoying a stable environment rather than rapid changes. Since they try to find win-win situations and to accommodate everyone, they can be slow to make decisions, especially unpopular or disruptive ones.
The Inclusive Dimension of Leadership
Leaders tend to use one of eight dimensions of leadership primarily. Inclusive leaders are people-oriented, great listeners, able to tap into the talents and motivations of their teams. They are patient, understanding, soft-spoken, and genuinely interested in others.
A preference for the familiar can keep this type of leader from initiating or embracing change. They are more comfortable with incremental changes that will minimize tension and uncertainty. They prefer to be cautious.
You won’t see this leader clawing his or her way to the top. Their need for status and achievement is lower than most. They might be competitive, but not from a need for them to be on top. They want to see the group succeed.
What We Can Learn from Inclusive Leaders
You can’t (and didn’t) do it alone
You’re not the only person who has great ideas and works hard. Inclusive leaders know this and know the importance of recognizing the contributions of others, even those other leaders might overlook. They understand the importance of the team member in team work. They care more about their team succeeding then their own ego needs. They acknowledge even the poorly-conceived idea in an effort to encourage better ones. They are more likely to say “yes, and” than “yeah, but.” As a result, they tend to stimulate better collaboration from their teams.
“Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue. To enlist support, leaders must have intimate knowledge of people’s dreams, hopes, aspirations, visions, and values.”
— Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge
“If leaders do not master collaborative relationships, both inside and outside the company, it can limit production of the outcomes needed to win our customers’ business.”
— Lori Beer, JPMorgan Chase
- Leadership Rewards and Recognition, The Balance Careers
- Why Good Leaders Pass the Credit and Take the Blame, HBR.org
- Why Great Leaders Let Others Take The Credit, Jas Singh
- Beware the Myth of the Super Leader, TLNT
People respond to their leader’s words and emotions
I once sat through a presentation with a leader who kept saying reassuring statements all the while shaking his head no. Of course I listened to his negating gesture rather than to his words. A leader’s emotions, gestures, and words are scrutinized for meaning from his or her followers.
A leader who displays negative emotions will cause additional stress among his colleagues and staff. People except a certain level of diplomacy from their leaders even when speaking the hard truth. A leader can demand accountability and results without being belligerent. They don’t have to lose their cool to get a point across.
People respond positively to the authentic expression of positive emotions. A leader who shows passion for the projects, for the organization and for the people involved can rally others. Showing positive emotions such as excitement or enthusiasm for a new project or happiness over someone’s good work can be motivating.
“Only the leader can set the tone of the dialogue in the organization. Dialogue is the core of culture and the basic unit of work. How people talk to each other absolutely determines how well the organization will function.”
— Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, Execution: The discipline of getting things done
- What Inclusive Leaders Sound Like, Harvard Business Review
- 7 Ways Leaders Maintain Their Composure in Difficult Times, Forbes
- 6 Ways Emotionally Attuned Leaders Motivate Team Members, Entrepreneur
- 10 things leaders with emotional intelligence never do, The Enterprise Project
- Great Leaders Are Positively Infectious, Forbes
- 5 Must-Have Traits of Successful Leaders, Success
Really listen, actually listen
If you want to be listened to, you have to do your share of the listening. Gaining input from others will improve your decisions and those that contributed—even if they argued on another side—are more likely to act upon them. Inclusive leaders are good at facilitating discussions that include everyone and focus on the issue at hand. They are likely to hear information they didn’t know or consider viewpoints and perspectives that make them broaden their own views, thereby encouraging more creative and responsive solutions.
“I’m not saying that everyone’s opinions should be put into practice or every single complaint needs to be satisfied. That’s what management judgment is all about. Obviously, some people have better ideas than others; some people are smarter or more experienced or more creative. But everyone should be heard and respected. They want it and you need it.”
— Jack Welch, Winning
- If Your Employees Aren’t Speaking Up, Blame Company Culture, Harvard Business Review
- 4 Active Listening Skills of Influential Leaders, business.com
- Listening Is An Underrated Leadership Tool, Forbes
- 6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders, Wall Street Journal
- Talks to help you be a better listener, TED
The Pitfalls of Inclusive-only Leadership
Pushing a team to achieve its goals can be difficult for Inclusive leaders. They don’t like to feel rushed and don’t want to pressure others. They can struggle to model the drive, urgency and intensity sometimes needed by a team needing to get immediate results.
Internalizing problems can be an issue for these leaders. They’d rather hold in their frustration rather than expressing it and risk destabilizing relationships. They never want anyone to feel offended or insulted by them. They are slow to anger and uncomfortable with those who get emotional. If they have to fight to be heard, they might chose to be silent, rather than risk appearing overly aggressive.
Leaders with high empathy can have a hard time saying “no”. Inclusive leaders want to be liked and to be seen as reasonable and compassionate. They can appear to lack confidence and authority. Physically, they may assume a posture or use gestures that make them appear smaller or less threatening. They need to be aware that they can come across as wishy-washy, indecisive, or lacking in confidence.
Discover your own preferred leadership dimension
Different business situations often require different styles of leadership. Mentors, coaches and self-reflection can help any type of leader stretch into each of the leadership behaviors needed by every effective leader.
Download the slide deck below for an overview of lessons you can learn from each of the eight dimensions of leadership. These lessons and insights are drawn from The 8 Dimensions of Leaders: DiSC® Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader.
By Kristeen Bullwinkle
Originally published on TalentGear.com.