by Denise Keating, Chief Executive, Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei)

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The new leaders

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Give a million monkeys a million typewriters, and eventually they’ll all produce a different, but valid, theory of leadership.


Leadership is an overused term. It’s used to describe seniority, regardless of leadership ability. It’s used to describe management, at any level. And it’s used to describe the application of authority.


The simple fact is that, while leadership is a multifaceted and confusing concept, we all lead in our own way. How we lead is what differentiates us: there is no one true pattern of leadership that one can say is the best, or the most effective. Circumstances, our environment and those we are leading determine the optimal style to produce the best results.


Whether we have official responsibility or are a team member, chances are we’ll all be put in a position of authority at some point. It’s at this point we begin to learn more about our team members and colleagues, what motivates individuals, and how they respond to our decisions.


Those two factors are key to the success of the project, the team, and ultimately the organisation. But the diversity of teams, and more importantly, the diversity of the people in those teams, means motivations and responses differ wildly between team members.


Some of a team’s diversity is obvious; legally protected characteristics such as race, gender and disability. Other traits are less visible, but still protected: religion or belief, sexual orientation and non-visible disabilities. Others still are invisible, not legally protected but which may have an even greater impact on one’s motivations than the legally protected characteristics that headline organisational diversity strategies.


enei’s 2016 research on inclusive leadership discovered there were as many as 15 individual traits (or competencies) that delivered improvements to team and organisational performance. We found people working with those exhibiting all 15 traits of inclusive leadership to be more productive, satisfied and engaged than those working with non-inclusive leaders.


We defined inclusive leadership as “leaders who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. They see diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage and inspire diverse people to drive organisational and individual performance towards a shared vision.”


We’ve already entered a new way of working. The home/work Venn diagram overlaps more than ever, and as we expect more work to occur at home the trade-off is that people expect to be themselves more at work. Workforces are more globally mobile, meaning our colleagues bring different approaches to work (based on that of their native culture).


One of our core competencies of inclusive leadership is individualised consideration. People are bringing their differences to work, instead of hiding them to fit into the group dynamic as they may have done in the past. They expect their leaders to show an interest in and appreciation for them and their needs, in return for demonstrating an interest and engagement in their work. Pay alone is no longer a primary reward motivator – the UK employment landscape is so strong that talented individuals can get a salary anywhere.


The new leaders don’t expect people to produce their best results for money. They know that each of them has their own worries, motivations and priorities. That may be the parent who happily works extra hours but expects time off for their child’s performances in return. It may be the person with ME who delivers from home and works irregular, broken-up hours around their condition. It may even be the shy worker who just needs a little extra support to have their ideas heard.


The new leaders support the people they lead as individuals. They do the best for every one of their team members. They don’t see the diversity in their team as a problem to be overcome, but an opportunity to include and combine all of their strengths and weaknesses to make their team unstoppable.


enei’s TIDE benchmark measures your organisation’s approach and progress on inclusion across the areas that affect employees most. Combined with the ILAt 360° assessment for leaders, we help organisations go beyond diversity initiatives to actually deliver inclusion across their workforce.


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