Here's How To Become An Inclusive Leader At Work

Here's How To Become An Inclusive Leader At Work
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 10 March, 2022

Tips on How to Become an Inclusive Boss at Work

Now, more than ever, companies are striving to achieve (and celebrate) diversity in the workplace. After all, according to Harvard Business Review, nonhomogeneous workplaces yield higher income growth and are generally "smarter."

In fact, one study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, put financially literate Singaporeans in simulated markets and asked them to price stocks. Participants were divided into ethnically diverse and homogeneous teams. Those who were part of the former were 58% more likely to price stocks accurately compared to the latter who made crucial pricing errors.

"Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance," noted HBR.

Having a healthy variety of people working together offers a greater opportunity for creativity and innovation. It also allows the company to reach a wider market not to mention it is good for employee morale.

But it's not enough for an organisation to open its doors and let everyone in. For diversity in a workplace to work, a company needs inclusive leadership.

What is inclusive leadership?

Simply put, inclusive leadership entails creating an office environment wherein all members of the team feel safe to be their true selves, thereby empowering them to excel at their jobs. An inclusive leader is someone who practices fairness and equality, respects their subordinates' unique beliefs and values, and encourages a culture that values differing perspectives.

They are also expected to protect employees from discrimination and injustices at work, and implement policies or processes that are beneficial for all—regardless of gender, religion, race, political beliefs, etc. As a result, teams with inclusive leaders tend to work more efficiently and more harmoniously, achieving better overall performance (and are happier, too!).

But how exactly does one become an inclusive leader? Fair warning: It's easier said than done. Here are five practical tips for leaders to embrace in order to nurture a high-performing team of diverse individuals:

Acknowledge any existing biases you may have.

As a leader, you first need to be aware of your biases and learned beliefs. Just about everyone has their own set of unconscious biases—or social stereotypes about certain groups of people that we form outside our own conscious awareness. These greatly affect our decisions and how we treat others especially in high-stress environments such as the office.

It's important to reflect on your beliefs and see where you need to adjust. It may be helpful to ask yourself questions like: "Does this person make me uncomfortable? Why is that?" or "Am I giving equal opportunity for all or am I playing favorites?"

By recognising your blind spots, you become more aware of how these influence your leadership style, helping you become more objective in the long run.

Continuously educate yourself.

Don't be afraid to ask questions—especially the difficult questions—because that's the only way you'll learn. Not sure how to pronounce an employee's name? Ask him. Unsure about the religious practices of a new hire? Start a conversation about it. Learn more about your employees' backgrounds by doing your research. Most of the time, those who feel like they belong to the minority are less likely to speak up, so take it upon yourself to meet them halfway.

Consider setting up an anonymous option for sending feedback or expressing one's self in relation to issues of inclusivity in the workplace—but be sure to commit to addressing these.

Recognise flaws in the system and push for the necessary changes.

Youmayalready be an inclusive leader, but it won't amount to much if the company you're working for is not. For starters, pay inequality remains a persistent issue in Singapore, with women making less money than men for equal work. There are also concerns of discrimination against minority racial groups, such as Malays and Indians, which become evident as early as the start of the hiring process.

Do your part by pushing your company to focus on what really matters professionally—the candidates' skills and what they can bring to the table—instead of their skin color or sexual identity.

(Also read: Here Are 5 Amazing Singapore Companies That Empower Women )

Identify and address microaggressions.

According to psychologist Derald W. Sue, co-author of the bookMicroaggressions in Everyday Life,microaggressions can be defined as "the everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people." For example: A woman can't get a word in at a board meeting because her male colleagues keep on speaking over her. Or a Filipino employee is commended for speaking impeccable English when it's actually his first language.

Obviously, these acts of microaggression do nothing but poison the workplace—sowing division among employees, fuelling stereotypes, and breeding resentment that can hinder productivity. As a leader, it's your job to identify these and make sure they're avoided at all costs.

Show genuine care for your employees.

Inclusive leaders aren't just fair; they genuinely care about the welfare of their subordinates both professionally and personally. This doesn't mean you have to be all chummy with them. You just have to be humble enough to show them your authentic self as this will encourage them to do the same.

Moreover, according to the Singapore edition of the Decoding Global Talent Survey (Report 2), workers consider a good relationship with their superiors their topmost consideration when it comes to job preferences, followed by a good relationship with colleagues and financial compensation. By being an inclusive leader, you'll be better able to gain your employee's trust and establish a healthy relationship even in the face of opposing values and beliefs.

The bottom line: Inclusive leadership takes a lot of work—and conscious self-reflection—but it's necessary in leading successfully diverse organisations and in fostering a positive working environment. To know more about current work trends in Singapore and globally, you may download the Decoding Global Talent Report 2 here.

Fuel your career and be the best leader you can be with JobStreet. You can get started by updating your JobStreet profile and searching for #JobsThatMatter. Make sure to include #WorkNow in your profile to inform employers that you are ready to take on an opportunity. If you need more tips and suggestions on diversity, just head to our Career Resources Hub.

At JobStreet, we believe in bringing you #JobsThatMatter. As a Career Partner, we are committed to helping all jobseekers find passion and purpose in every career choice. And as the number 1 Talent Partner in Asia, we connect employers with the right candidates who truly make a positive and lasting impact on the organisation.

Discover Jobs That Matter. Visit JobStreet today.

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