Sustained Inclusion Requires Inclusive Leadership, Decision-making and Culture

By Simon Haigh


Growth requires innovation, which in turn requires diversity, which then in turn requires inclusion. More specifically, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives provide organizations with at least 3 tangible benefits:

  • Serving their local communities & being socially responsible — true DEI increases an organisation’s ability and capacity to serve people who have different experiences or backgrounds and expectations;
  • Increasing innovation Increased creativity is another by-product of capitalizing on differences; and
  • Improved ROI — DEI initiatives improve the quality of an organisation’s workforce and can be a catalyst for a better return on investment in human capital.

Diversity is a fact (the numbers are what they are). Inclusion is a choice (you decide whether to include someone or not), while equity is about creating fair access, opportunity, & advancement for all. It’s a place where people feel seen and valued for who they are, a place where they can show up and be their own unique, authentic selves.  When this happens, they thrive, & so do the people around them.


Inclusive Leadership

“Inclusive leadership is a critical capability to leverage diverse thinking in a workforce with increasingly diverse markets, customers & talent. Being an inclusive leader means challenging & empowering” —Inclusive Leadership Theoretical Framework

I would suggest that the best type of inclusive leadership practices what I would describe as “Intentional Inclusion”. Intentional inclusion involves purposeful action-based plans that are focused on inciting positive changes. Teaching your teams about inclusion is one thing, but it’s another thing to ensure that your organization has procedures that help the team practice what was preached. Intentional inclusion helps workers to realize that they are all accountable for taking necessary steps to make inclusion a reality in their workplace.

Senior leaders control these resources and decide where to put them. They must be involved in the delivery phase of DEI interventions to dedicate specific resources and make DEI work a strong priority for the whole organisation. Good delivery requires collaborative long-term planning and accountability. Who owns what aspects of the project? How does one leader know when their team has made progress sufficient to move forward?

An organisation should ensure that the DEI strategy involves relevant stakeholders. This includes not only senior leaders but everyone, e.g., do managers feel equipped to measure their own progress and seek resources if they need help? Do individual contributors feel empowered to help implement the program and offer feedback if they see areas for growth?


The Six Key Aspects of Inclusive Decision-Making

  • Relationship Building
    The closer you get to knowing the intentions and assumptions of others the more likely you are to succeed through relationships built upon mutual trust. Be likeable — trust is a belief in reliability, truth, capability or strength that you have in someone else. Inclusive leadership cannot be transactional. Building relationships goes beyond tolerance or accommodation. Relationship building contributes to inclusion and sustains it.
  • Recognition
    It is essential for organisations to define terms of reference, have clearly and detailed deliverables, create a ‘safe space’ in order for team members to feel at ease & give of their best. It is also very important to show particular sensitivity to employees operating in field of remote locations and to establish multiple communication tools and schedule regular meetings.
  • Empathy
    It is essential to understand the emotions of others & to adapt our behavior to go & meet them where they are. This involves the ability to communicate that you can see the world from another person’s point of view. It involves remaining open and receptive and paraphrasing what you hear. Inclusive leaders are warm & encouraging. Inclusive leaders stay connected. Empathy contributes to inclusion.
  • Building Trust — Social Connection
    Trust very quickly evaporates — we all know what lack of trust feels like — it’s harder to actually define what trust is. It is really important to be as honest as corporately possible about a situation, including the unknowns and the fact they don’t have all answers. The worst thing you can do is leave festering voids whereby worried employees fill their own gaps. Inclusive leaders encourage people to recognize each other as humans. Stronger social connections help us maintain more positive mindsets. Inclusive leaders know who their team are in real life.
  • Encouraging Participation
    Leadership resilience will be best displayed by those leaders who display clarity of thought, effective communication and strong but compassionate decision-making. Tough decisions must be made but in a respectful way — driving forward inspirationally with imperfect information. Resilient leaders operate through the dual prisms of calm, pragmatic strength for greater good of organization while doing this compassionately and with empathy. Inclusion is an invitation. Inclusive leaders provide different ways to communicate.
  • Alignment
    Inclusive leaders provide a shared vision & clarity to guide others. Alignment contributes to inclusion. Inclusive leaders also make space for people to find their own meaning & purpose.


The Right Culture is Required for Innovation & Growth

A truly inclusive culture:

  • Recognizes that all employees are different, each possessing unique talents and abilities;
  • Holds intense core values and ensure they’re simple and measurable;
  • Celebrates success and consistently reviews both formally and informally;
  • Is open and communicates effectively to increase morale and productivity;
  • Empower employees to solve their own problems;
  • Embeds mutual confidence and trust; and
  • Fosters Teamwork, Respect, Enthusiasm, Integrity and Honesty.


The Benefits to Growth of a Solid DEI Training Program

An effective DEI training program, as a core part of a wider DEI culture should address significant issues, including:

  • Ensuring everyone has equal access to resources and support;
  • Creating systemic structures that acknowledge and honour cultural differences;
  • Building an organisational culture from the inside out;
  • Developing a company mission that models inclusive practices; and
  • Finding, addressing & rectifying historical bias within your organisation.

Growth requires innovation, which in turn requires diversity, which then in turn requires inclusion. It is for truly inclusive leadership to set the tone, pace and direction of truly Inclusive Growth.

Simon Haigh is a highly acclaimed business, leadership, brand & personal growth strategist & transformational thought leader. He is a globally acknowledged expert in negotiation & dealmaking, a certified leadership, executive & life coach, mentor, consultant, advisor, CPD Accredited trainer, facilitator, certified mediator, adjunct lecturer, keynote speaker, media host, and board/business advisor.

Simon is also a tri-qualified former corporate lawyer, has also been a non-executive director for numerous organisations around the world and is currently advisor to three companies in Ireland & the US. Simon has been featured on various global media outlets such as the BBC in the UK, Australia’s ABC television & numerous global radio & podcast channels.

Simon’s work & two of his books (How to be a Better Dealcloser & Dealmaking for Corporate Growth) are endorsed and foreworded by world no. 1 leadership thinker, Marshall Goldsmith. Simon is a Thinkers 360 Top 10 Thought Leader and ranked #6 Negotiation Thought Leader with Global Gurus.

Simon Haigh –, and trainer to

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