Reimagining inclusive leadership in your organization by getting clear on what an inclusive leader looks like!

May 23, 2024 | Maureen Frank

In today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, inclusive leadership is more important than ever. As someone deeply invested in building your inclusive leadership style, you already know that inclusive leadership isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a necessity for any thriving organization. But what does it really mean to be an inclusive leader, and how can you build inclusive teams? Drawing from my nearly 20 years in building inclusive leadership capabilities, let’s explore the essential elements of an organizational inclusive leadership initiative and how you can implement inclusivity training for leaders effectively.

What is Inclusive Leadership?

Inclusive leadership is about creating an environment where everyone feels important, heard, and empowered to contribute their best. How do you build and embed inclusive leadership in your organization? It’s not just about ticking boxes or meeting quotas; it’s about genuinely integrating diverse perspectives into the fabric of your organization. This approach leads to better decision-making, increased innovation, and stronger team performance. Inclusive leadership refers to how leaders can take action every day to ensure every team member feels like they belong and that inclusion in the workplace is real. It’s about authentic leadership across your entire organization embedding a culture of inclusion and belonging. Inclusive leaders create a safe place where all team members feel valued. 

  1. Boosts Innovation: Diverse and inclusive teams bring different perspectives, leading to creative solutions and innovative ideas.
  2. Enhances Performance: Inclusive leadership traits build psychological safety and high employee engagement and satisfaction, which translates to better performance.
  3. Attracts Top Talent: Today’s workforce values diversity and inclusion. Being known as an inclusive leader makes your organization more attractive to top talent.
  4. Strengthens Brand Reputation: Companies committed to inclusion often enjoy a better reputation, which can lead to increased customer loyalty and business opportunities.

This is what inclusive leadership looks like: 

The importance of inclusive leadership needs to be embedded into your organizational culture.  In order to build leadership effectiveness in your organization, you need to set the goal of leaders becoming an inclusive leader. This needs to be built into leadership competencies and you must ensure that inclusive leaders actively talk about what their inclusive leadership approach is.  Good leaders embody inclusive leadership in a way that makes people feel included and in teams that are likely to make better decisions because everyone has a real voice and underrepresented groups are not just tokens. 

1. Commitment

True commitment to inclusion starts at the top. Leaders must not only advocate for diversity and inclusion but also demonstrate it through their actions. This involves setting clear goals, allocating resources, and holding themselves and others accountable.

Action Tip: Conduct a DEI Health Check to understand your current position and set actionable goals. Regularly review and adjust your strategies to ensure continuous improvement.

2. Courage

Inclusive leaders also need the courage to challenge the status quo and address uncomfortable issues. This means speaking up when something isn’t right, even if it’s unpopular, and being open to feedback.

Action Tip: Implement an Inclusive Leadership Shadow program to encourage senior leaders to reflect on their actions and commitments to diversity and inclusion. This program can help leaders identify areas for improvement and develop a personal action plan.

3. Cognizance of Bias

Ensuring that your leadership development ensures inclusive leaders are aware of their bias is crucial for building an inclusive workplace. Leaders must be aware of their own biases and actively work to counteract them.

Action Tip: Introduce training sessions focused on unconscious bias and its impact on decision-making. Encourage leaders to regularly reflect on their decisions and seek diverse perspectives.

4. Curiosity

Inclusive leaders are curious about different perspectives and eager to learn from others. They actively seek out and listen to diverse viewpoints.

Action Tip: Foster a culture of curiosity by encouraging open dialogue and creating opportunities for team members to share their experiences and ideas.

5. Cultural Intelligence

Understanding and respecting cultural differences is key to creating an inclusive environment. Leaders must develop cultural intelligence to effectively navigate diverse work environments.

Action Tip: Organize leadership training on culture to help leaders and teams understand and appreciate cultural differences. Provide resources and support for continuous learning.

6. Collaboration

Inclusive leaders promote collaboration by creating a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas. They understand that diverse teams are more effective when everyone works together.

Action Tip: Implement team-building activities that emphasize collaboration and inclusion. Encourage cross-functional projects to bring diverse perspectives together.

Practical Steps to Foster Inclusive Leadership

  1. Start with Self-Reflection: Encourage leaders to assess their own biases and areas for improvement. Tools like the Inclusive Leadership Shadow can be invaluable in this process.
  2. Set Clear Goals: Define what success looks like in terms of creating an inclusive culture. Use metrics to track progress and adjust strategies as needed.
  3. Provide Training and Resources: Equip leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed. This includes training on unconscious bias, emotional intelligence, how to become more inclusive and effective communication. Training should be about creating new HABITS (check out our Inclusive Habits Journey for senior leaders and also a version for Frontline Leaders.)
  4. Create Accountability Mechanisms: Hold leaders accountable for their actions and commitments. Regularly review their progress and provide feedback.
  5. Foster an Open and Inclusive Culture: Promote a culture where everyone feels safe to express their ideas and concerns. Encourage open dialogue and active listening.

The Role of Inclusive Habits

Building inclusive habits is crucial for sustaining an inclusive culture. Emberin’s Inclusion Habits Journey focuses on teaching leaders the daily actions they need to create a sense of belonging for their teams. By embedding these habits through understanding and practice, leaders can drive meaningful change.

Key Habits Include:

  • Active Listening: Show genuine interest in team members’ ideas and concerns.
  • Empathy: Understand and share the feelings of others.
  • Fairness: Ensure equal opportunities and treatment for all team members.
  • Transparency: Communicate openly and honestly about decisions and policies.
  • Support: Provide the necessary support for team members to succeed.


Inclusive leadership is not a one-time effort but an ongoing journey. It requires commitment, courage, and continuous learning. By fostering inclusive habits and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard, leaders can unlock the full potential of their teams. The benefits of inclusive leadership are clear: increased innovation, better performance, and a stronger, more resilient organization. Start your journey today by implementing these principles and watch your organization thrive.

For more insights and resources on inclusive leadership, visit Emberin.

By embracing inclusive leadership, you’re not just enhancing your team’s performance—you’re creating a workplace where everyone can thrive. Let’s lead the way in making inclusion a reality for all.

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