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September 26, 2023

Why Inclusive Leadership Is Important in 2023

Categories:  Leadership
Blog 77 final photo
“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.”
–Jesse Jackson (Activist)

No one can deny that the workforce is becoming increasingly diverse, with people from various backgrounds, generations, and identities entering the job market and working alongside each other in the workplace. Accompanying this, societal shifts and grassroots movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have led to increased awareness and discussions around issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Inclusive leadership is essential for effectively managing and leveraging this diverse talent pool and creating a desirable and profitable organization.

Benefits of an Inclusive Workplace

Reduced Turnover

Today's employees, especially younger generations, often expect their employers to prioritize diversity and inclusion. They value workplaces where they feel respected and included, and they are more likely to stay with companies that prioritize these values.

One of the top five reasons that employees quit is because they feel disrespected at work. Feeling included is a key component of respect. When employees don’t feel like they belong in a workplace, it’s more likely that they will underperform and quit, costing the employer money.

According to Jeanine Prime, leader of the Catalyst Research Center for Advancing Leader Effectiveness, “Creating a workplace where employees feel included is directly connected to worker retention and growth.”

Increased Performance

An inclusive workplace has been shown to improve innovation, lead to better decision-making, and enhance employee engagement. Overall, research has shown that diverse and inclusive organizations tend to perform better financially and are more adaptable to changing market dynamics. As a result, many business leaders recognize the business imperative of inclusive leadership and are adopting it as a strategic priority while seeking leaders who can effectively champion these efforts.

Improved Public Perception

Companies that are perceived as inclusive and socially responsible often enjoy a positive public image. Inclusive leadership can enhance an organization's reputation and brand, which can be important for attracting customers and talent.

Due to these factors, many organizations are investing in leadership development programs that focus on inclusivity, and they are seeking leaders who can champion diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within their organizations. Inclusive leadership is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage in today's diverse and globalized business landscape, which is why it continues to gain popularity.

What is Inclusive Leadership?

Inclusive leadership is a leadership approach that emphasizes creating an environment where all individuals, regardless of their background, identity, or differences, feel valued, respected, and included. It is a leadership style that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within an organization or team. Inclusive leaders actively work to ensure that diverse perspectives and voices are heard and that everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and succeed.

Six Traits of Inclusive Leaders

A study of inclusive leaders from several countries around the world conducted by Deloitte Australia, found that inclusive leaders possess six common characteristics that help foster diversity in their teams. These traits are Cognizance, Curiosity, Cultural Intelligence, Commitment, Courage, and Collaboration.

1. Cognizance of bias

Inclusive leaders have a keen understanding that personal and organizational biases can produce blind spots and prevent them from making objective decisions. To combat this issue, these leaders put in the effort to identify their own biases and set guardrails in place to prevent them from allowing their biases to affect hiring practices.

2. Curiosity and Open-Mindedness

Inclusive leaders are curious about and open to different ideas, perspectives, and experiences. They are willing to challenge their own biases and preconceptions and actively seek out diverse viewpoints.

3. Cultural and Emotional Intelligence

A leader needs to be able to see and understand different personal backgrounds and experiences to be truly inclusive. In addition, inclusive leaders go out of their way to educate themselves about different cultures, backgrounds, and identities. They are sensitive to the cultural nuances and differences that exist within their teams and organizations.

4. Commitment to Diverse Team Building

Inclusive leaders intentionally build diverse teams and promote diversity in hiring and promotion practices. They recognize the value of diversity in driving innovation and problem-solving and commit to diversity as a hiring goal.

5. Courage

Inclusive leaders act as allies for marginalized or underrepresented groups, using their privilege and influence to support and advocate for those who may face discrimination or bias. These leaders possess the courage to push back against biased attitudes within their organization - including their own.

6. Effective Collaboration and Communication

Inclusive leaders are skilled communicators who foster an environment of open and transparent communication. They actively listen to their team members and encourage dialogue through collaboration.

Additional Leadership Traits that Promote Diversity

In our experience, the following traits are also important for inclusive leadership:


Empathy is a very important part of fostering inclusion. Inclusive leaders demonstrate empathy by understanding and considering the feelings, needs, and experiences of others. They strive to create a supportive and inclusive culture where individuals feel safe to express themselves.

Advocate for Equity

Inclusive leaders advocate for fairness and equity in opportunities, rewards, and resources within their organization. They address systemic biases and work to eliminate barriers to success.


Inclusive leaders hold themselves and their teams accountable for promoting inclusion and diversity. They set clear expectations and goals related to DEI and measure progress.

Conflict Resolution

Inclusive leaders are skilled at resolving conflicts and addressing issues related to diversity and inclusion. They create a safe space for addressing concerns and finding solutions.

Continuous Learning

Inclusive leaders understand that DEI is an ongoing journey. They are committed to continuous learning and improvement in their own understanding of inclusion and in their leadership practices.

Inclusive leadership is a proactive and intentional approach to leadership that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion within organizations. It fosters a sense of belonging among all individuals, leading to greater innovation, engagement, and overall success for the organization and its members.

Foster an inclusive, aligned, and inspiring culture—one that great employees want to join. Contact us today to get started.


James and Lori

James Jackman & Lori Heffelfinger

Cultivating Leaders & Aligning Teams to Drive Sustainable, Scalable Business Results

Additional sources:

Fadi Smiley, “Leadership Guide to Conflict and Conflict Management”, Pressbooks, LEADERSHIP IN HEALTHCARE AND PUBLIC HEALTH, 2018,,the%20tone%20for%20the%20organization, 9/11/2023

Flint Brenton, “How to Commit to Lifelong Learning for Leadership Success”, Forbes, 12/9/2022,, 9/11/2023

Paloma Cantero-Gomez, “The 5 Rules Followed By Accountable Leaders”, Forbes, 6/7/2019, 9/11/2023

Deloitte, “How Business Leaders Can Build a More Equitable Workforce”, Harvard Business Review, 5/11/2021,, 9/11/2023

Tracy Brower, PhD, “Empathy Is the Most Important Leadership Skill According to Research”, Forbes, 9/19/2021,, 9/11/2023

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