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How inclusive leadership impacts your entire business

February 25, 2021 - 4 min read

When a people leader builds their inclusive leadership skills, direct reports notice.

Given the backdrop of 2020, many organizations have awakened to the realization that building inclusive leadership skills in their workforce is a business priority. Why? The importance of diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion has never been more salient. If you aren’t developing inclusive leaders, then you are still a part of the problem. 

Without inclusive leadership, retaining a diverse workforce is a challenge. That’s because diversity without inclusion won’t meaningfully improve the experience of your workforce or help your business leverage that diversity to find the best solutions. 

So how can organizations build inclusive leaders? To create a workplace where everyone feels included takes deliberate effort that touches everyone in an organization. Data from BetterUp Labs suggests that by supporting people leaders with a Coach, you can cultivate inclusive leaders. Growth is up to 33% within 3-4 months. But it’s not just the inclusive leader that is impacted. Teams with inclusive leaders develop a sense of belonging for those around them and in turn, we see powerful extensions to attitudes, behavior, and performance on teams. 

Massive team innovation and growth 

When a people leader builds their inclusive leadership skills, direct reports notice. Data collected from direct reports suggest that compared to teams with leaders low on inclusive leadership skills, teams with highly inclusive leaders have direct reports with:

  • 150% greater belonging
  • 140% greater perceived organizational support
  • 90% higher team innovation, 50% higher team performance, and 140% higher team engagement
  • 780% higher NPS scores for that manager
  • And 54% lower turnover intention


5 things inclusive leaders do well 

Managers hold a lot of influence over the employee experience and the sense of inclusion for their teams. They are key players in promoting a feeling of belonging and inclusion. 

On a concrete level, inclusive leaders do the following 5 things very well: 

  1. Fostering strong interpersonal relationships
  2. Ensuring justice and equity
  3. Sharing information and decision-making 
  4. Promoting diverse contributions
  5. Helping all group members fully contribute

A trusted coaching relationship can create accountability and a safe space for the deep inner work needed to build these behavioral practices. Personalization is key because everyone has different readiness levels, baseline skills, unconscious biases and past experiences, and personal traumas to grapple with. But managers who are given support can learn to harness their power as an inclusive leader to create positive employee experiences, strengthen team dynamics, and guide their teams more effectively toward goals. 

Diversity is a company’s lifeblood. Inclusion can help unlock all the talent and value of that diversity to create better solutions, better ideas, and a better work experience. That is why creating inclusive leaders isn’t just going to impact that individual leader, but also their teams, and ultimately, the entire business.

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Published February 25, 2021

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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