Inclusive Leadership: Just Be Good To People

As Mahatma Gandhi was believed to have said, “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.”

Exclusivity breeds exclusion, while inclusion fosters belonging and connection. As companies embark to establish, sustain or change their culture, it is paramount to make sure inclusion is part of the overall strategic plan.

Research indicates that people want to feel included, heard and valued, and they will go above and beyond if the essential need of belonging is met. If inclusion is not present, diversity may be achievable, but not sustainable. A lack of belonging adversely impacts an organization’s bottom line through attrition — a surefire indication that your staff is primed to leave.

Inclusion and belonging are critically sought-after workplace attributes that are often not achieved due to leaders who inhibit inclusion through their actions. We also know that it’s not just diversity that matters, but diversity, inclusion, belonging and support, otherwise known as DIBS. Let’s focus on what DIBS fosters in the workplace.

I am a big believer in leading by example, and it’s incredibly important that as a leader, I practice what I preach and lead with the spirit of inclusion. Becoming an inclusive leader is not rocket science; it’s actually quite the opposite. It starts with the old adage, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”

Being inclusive is about keeping it simple, human, and making sure employees understand what inclusion is and how those behaviors show up at work. We know that if staff feel like they truly belong and are supported, they will thrive.

Often, leaders unintentionally (or sometimes, intentionally) exhibit behaviors of exclusion that leave staff feeling left out and despondent. As a leader, you bear the responsibility for setting the tone and carrying the mantle of an inclusive culture.