What Is Inclusive Leadership? (Including Pros and Cons)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You may be thinking of improving your leadership skills to help you perform well in the workplace. Leaders use different styles in various settings and choose the style that suits them best. Learning more about the various leadership styles, such as the inclusive leadership style, can help you decide which leadership style to use at work. In this article, we explain what inclusive leadership is, including its advantages and challenges and what qualities a leader practising this leadership style exhibits.

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What is inclusive leadership?

Inclusive leadership is a leadership style that improves communication and collaboration between team members. This, in turn, assists leaders with making effective decisions and solving problems efficiently at work. If you're an inclusive leader, you tend to use your experience and knowledge to guide other staff members in achieving success at work, whether meeting personal or professional goals.

As the inclusive leadership style is one of the major leadership styles, you can consider trying out this leadership style at some point in your professional career. Understanding whether it's suitable for you or when to use it to the best effect can help your team members view you as a better leader. If you're an effective leader, you have a better chance of asking for a promotion, higher salary or more responsibilities to further your professional career.

Related: What Is Leadership? (With Key Elements of Leadership)

What qualities do inclusive leaders have?

An inclusive leader's traits usually make their leadership collaborative and effective. Such leaders tend to involve their staff members when making decisions. By encouraging their team members to work for their goals and voice their opinions, the team's overall performance and productivity may rise. Many of these leaders share the following traits:

Humility

It's crucial that an inclusive leader continues to be modest and humble in any professional situation. Inclusive leaders tend to have a strong awareness of the areas they can improve on and which others are good at. Having humility means that leaders are willing to defer to other members for expertise if necessary.

Related: What Is Transformational Leadership and Why Is It Effective?

Active listening skills

An inclusive leader may show active listening skills by listening to other people's ideas before coming to an important decision. Active listening encourages your colleagues to contribute their thoughts and opinions without being afraid of interruption. As a result, the company may experience greater engagement, drive and collaboration between its employees. As such, a team tends to be more cohesive and demonstrate better teamwork.

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Effective communication

Inclusive leaders may begin conversations with their team members, encouraging them to consider issues and solutions or provide their thoughts and feedback. By showing strong and clear communication skills, inclusive leaders can usually find out the proficiencies of their team members. This is useful since the leader can obtain different opinions and rely on the expertise of all their team members.

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Target-driven focus

Inclusive leaders pay attention to their final goal, for example, sales, productivity or client satisfaction. Many inclusive leaders commit to striving for good results and utilise the staff members and resources they have in any way to help them reach these goals. By achieving good targets, they show that they're capable leaders and may receive recognition from their superiors and the company's management.

Creativity

Inclusive leaders tend to be open-minded and can pay attention to and consider fresh ideas they may not have considered themselves. They're also typically receptive to innovations or creative thinking. Since inclusive leaders are more likely to consider new and different ideas, they may be in an excellent position to create far-spreading change within the company. If you're creative, you may be suitable to use the inclusive leadership style at work.

Commitment to diversity

Inclusive leaders are proactive in looking for different voices and opinions in the workplace. They may spend time and effort recruiting and paying attention to a wide range of opinions or viewpoints, even if these differ from their own. Inclusive leaders may also tend to question the status quo and could be more receptive to new ideas or thoughts. Therefore, inclusive leaders can have a clear picture of the situation as they can access different perspectives on the issue.

Empathy

Inclusive leaders could display empathy and compassion, including the ability to listen to others' views and perspectives. Since inclusive leaders with empathy understand what other staff members are thinking or feeling, they become better at communicating. Such leaders may make wise decisions since they consider all viewpoints and opinions before making a decision. Empathy also helps build trust within the team as team members feel comfortable expressing thoughts and opinions without fear.

Ability to give and receive constructive feedback

Inclusive leaders have the ability to receive constructive feedback from others about themselves. They also provide constructive feedback professionally, ensuring that employees learn more about their strengths and areas for improvement. Since inclusive leaders listen to and seriously consider any team feedback, the team tends to be stronger and have more trust. Good inclusive leaders may also ensure that feedback goes both ways, from subordinates to superiors and from superiors to subordinates.

What are the advantages of inclusive leadership?

Here are some of the advantages of inclusive leadership:

Leads to a wide range of ideas

The number of ideas a team comes up with may increase with more people thinking and contributing to the issue. With greater discussion and effective communication, the quality of ideas may improve. In a group setting, people can build ideas off the ideas of others, and you may find that the final idea has evolved from existing ideas.

Builds trust between team members

The inclusive leadership style can help foster good relationships between peers, subordinates and superiors. Many people feel comfortable expressing their opinions within a safe environment, so there's greater trust and teamwork between colleagues. By building synergies within the team, you can improve output quality and support the business' growth and revenue goals.

Increases job satisfaction

Staff members may find it enjoyable to work under bosses who use the inclusive leadership style. As bosses are inclusive, the staff members may feel that they can contribute to the team since the leader takes their opinions into account. Staff members who feel that they aren't merely doing work in the company but also contributing to decisions that affect the company could find more satisfaction and meaning in their daily tasks and responsibilities. Overall, this may boost team morale and increase the chances of employee loyalty and retention.

The benefit of increased job satisfaction may even be more prominent in junior employees. This is because they have greater responsibilities than their peers in other companies. The increased involvement and sense of achievement from giving opinions could cause them to enjoy their job even more.

What are the disadvantages of inclusive leadership?

Here are some drawbacks of inclusive leadership:

Slower decision making

Inclusive leadership involves listening to various opinions during decision-making, which can slow the process down. For example, you may need time to meet with staff members to ask for their opinions. Differences in time zones could cause meetings during odd hours when staff members aren't performing at their best. Also, with many different opinions, you may find that there are too many good ideas and spend more time thinking about which solution to adopt.

Nonetheless, slow decision-making is a challenge you can mitigate by setting strict time frames for making decisions to move the process along. By exercising discipline when discussing the problem with others, you can keep the process on schedule to avoid delays. You can also rotate early or late meetings to accommodate the schedule of various colleagues.

Ambiguity in roles

If you practise inclusive leadership, there's a chance that roles become ambiguous. This is because everyone within the team can have an opinion or say in the decision-making process, and staff members and a company's management may be less distinct over time. Without clarity on hierarchy and responsibilities, the efficiency of all parties within the company may not be optimal.

Potential power struggles

There may be power struggles between team members and leaders as both parties want to achieve the best possible results for themselves and the company. Since the opinions of all parties matter when you're an inclusive leader, some colleagues may want to increase the weight of their views by achieving a higher rank. Nonetheless, you can mitigate this potential challenge by being cautious about maintaining the distinction between the leadership team and staff members.

Related: Pros and Cons of 10 Common Management Styles (With Examples)

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