Leaders with the third ‘I’ – Inclusiveness!

Article by: Team AVTAR I-WIN

‘Include to grow. Grow to include’ – is a success mantra at discerning organizations intent on staying ahead on the curve of workplace inclusivity. However, in VUCA markets, in an uber-competitive world, leaders from across industries face the same challenge: how to register growth – inclusive, sustainable growth in diverse organizations? This certainly is not a ‘one-solution-fits-all’ scenario. There isn’t a silver bullet, a formula that guarantees success. But there sure are certain intelligent navigation techniques that leaders can follow, to enable sustainable business growth. Against the backdrop of global businesses, agile work environments and diverse workforces – leaders who strategically deploy the three ‘I’s are able to optimize effectiveness of their teams.

And without any further ado, the 3 ‘Is’ are – the ability to INNOVATE, the power to INFLUENCE but most importantly to do both ‘INCLUSIVELY’. Let us further dissect the third ‘I’ – that of inclusiveness. A 2015 research by Korn Ferry establishes that competencies required of leaders to become inclusive, include being authentic, being open, optimizing diverse talent, building collaborative relationships, influencing people and being flexible and adaptable. This comprehensive competency cloak when worn by leaders can help them hire the best talent in fluid market conditions, manage generational/cultural or gender differences in the midst of complex business scenarios, and improve brand positioning in hyper-competitive markets.

Another 2016 research by Deloitte brings to the fore, the following MCTs (Most Common Traits) of inclusive leaders – 1) Cognizance 2) Curiosity 3) Cultural Intelligence 4) Collaboration 5) Commitment and 6) Courage. These attitudinal elements are also influenced by an individual’s value systems and are traits that can be learnt & polished along the path to leadership. If we are to delve deeper:

  1. Cognizance – what is ‘Cognizance’? It is awareness of one’s own self, one’s perceptions – beliefs and biases. Being aware of one’s biases – both the conscious and unconscious varieties, helps one override stereotypical notions and become more open and accepting.
  2. Curiosity – ‘Curiosity’ is a pre-cursor to successful ideation; to be inclusive, a leader needs to be curious to welcome ideas and thoughts that may be departures from the norm, but lead to greater innovation and business success.
  3. Cultural Intelligence – When leaders operate with global workforces, it is imperative that they stay culturally aware and intelligent, to ensure work-environments that are rooted in mutual respect and trust. With India being intrinsically culturally diverse, being culturally intelligent helps leaders to prevent workplace conflicts and improve employee engagement levels.
  4. Collaboration – The fourth important trait according to the research is ‘collaboration’ – synergy in productivity is a desirable outcome when team diversity is effectively managed to ensure collaboration; an inclusive leader is convinced of the synergic destination and puts his/her best foot forward towards ensuring collaboration.
  5. Commitment – ‘Commitment’ is a corner-stone of leadership, more so inclusive leadership. Unwavering commitment to inclusion becomes important when the water turns rough, the tides become high and the going gets tough! When a leader stays committed to inclusion in adverse times, there is greater collaboration and lesser conflict.
  6. Courage – To challenge the established, to break out of comfort zones, it takes courage, a lot of it. For inclusive leaders, this means moving away from pre-established methods of success, to ones that bring long-term, sustainable success. There might be risks involved and business uncertainties, but the courage to brave them all to get to the larger goal, distinguishes the inclusive leadership style!

Leadership traits, as the world know them, are also subject to evolution – dynamic workplaces and their operating styles being ubiquitous influencers. But if there is one trait that has been a hallmark of leaders through the changing corporate landscape, it has been inclusiveness. Consciously working towards being inclusive will not only help organizational leaders raise their leadership profiles but also create a large circle of included employees who are effectively engaged with the organization.