The research, from Opportunity Now, the gender equality campaign within Business in the Community, conducted in partnership with diversity expert Dr Gillian Shapiro, shows that inclusive leaders are a vital component of future success, but warns that too few of today’s leaders are seen as inclusive.
In a survey of 600 employees 84% said that an inclusive leader had made them feel more motivated, and 81% reported that an inclusive leader improved their performance and productivity. 81% said that a leader with an inclusive style motivated them to go the extra mile beyond their day to day role.
Inclusive leaders are also effective in overcoming barriers preventing women gaining entry to senior leadership positions. 72% of our female survey respondents reported that inclusive leaders helped create career promoting opportunities for them.
Yet despite the benefits of a more inclusive leadership style, leaders with these capabilities are rare, 66% of the respondents reported that, in their experience, less than half of the managers and leaders in their organisation are inclusive leaders. Only 5% of respondents reported that three quarters or more of the leaders in their organisation are great inclusive leaders.
Increasing the number of inclusive leaders in UK companies is critical for preparing for future business challenges. With an increasingly knowledge based economy, the need to respond to emerging markets, diverse customer bases, the challenges of the economic downturn and the cultural change inspired by technology and new ways of networking, organisations need to develop new forms of leadership which make the most of diverse talent, innovation and employee engagement.
Even where inclusive leaders do exist, they need to improve their diversity specific skills. The research indicates that only 29% of employees agreed that the inclusive leader they were thinking of was highly effective in providing coaching and mentoring that met their individual needs. Only 25% of respondents said that their inclusive leader was highly effective in challenging non inclusive behaviours in others or unsupportive organisational systems. Only 29% of respondents said that their inclusive leader was very effective in being aware of their own assumptions and stereotypes about others and skilled in minimising these.
Businesses are not yet making the most of the potential benefits of great leaders and managers. The research found that inclusive leaders usually learn their skills through personal experience, by osmosis, rather than by organisational design. If businesses are to tap into the commercial advantage of inclusive leadership they need to develop a systematic way of developing and fostering these leadership qualities. This research defines the knowledge and skills, behaviours and actions of an inclusive leader and provides employers with tools to increase the number of inclusive leaders in their organisations.
Helen Wells, Director of Opportunity Now, said:
“The call to action in this research is clear. We know that inclusive leaders are a powerful but rare commodity. This research sets out a five step framework of practical, pragmatic recommendations that companies can make use of to assess their inclusive leadership gap and increase the number of inclusive leaders in their company”.
Alison Platt, Divisional Managing Director, Europe and North America, Bupa, and Chair of Opportunity Now, said:
“We know that a diverse workforce is a vital source of creativity, innovation and talent. Ensuring all employees are motivated and engaged is a clear commercial imperative. Inclusive leaders are key to meeting this challenge. We must make this shift: inclusive leadership cannot solely be about pioneers, it is a leadership style that must run through organisations”.
Dr. Gillian Shapiro, Managing Director of Shapiro Consulting, said:
“Many leaders state their commitment to inclusion but ask what they should do to act on this. This research clearly sets out the skills, behaviours and actions that define an effective inclusive leader. Every UK business can benefit from the increased productivity, performance and leveraging of diverse employees and customers inclusive leadership yields. The time to act and close the UK inclusive leadership gap is now.”
Opportunity Now is grateful to BAE Systems, KPMG, Nomura and Marsh & McLennan companies for their support and sponsorship of this research.