The Most Important Inclusive Leadership Traits to Develop

Most employers (76%) are receptive to improving the level of inclusion and inclusive leadership in their organizations, but less than half have success in effectively training leaders to demonstrate inclusive leadership, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, How to Develop Inclusive Leaders: An Inside Look.

Driving greater inclusion and helping leaders adapt to a more inclusive style of leadership amount to culture change, which must occur at all levels of an organization to be successful.

Overall, our study showed that about one-third of employers are training at all levels; from the C-Suite to individual contributors. But no more than 41% are training on inclusive leadership at any one employee level. Employers who rate developing inclusive leaders as important or critical are, on average, 32% more likely to train all employee levels. 

Inclusive Leader Training at Different Levels of Organizations

Overall, 41% of organizations have less than one-fifth of their senior leaders (VP and above) coming from diverse groups. This includes women, people of color, LGBTQ+, veterans, people with disabilities and other diverse populations. Only about one in 10 organizations have more than 40% of top leadership that is inclusive of people of diversity. Organizations that say they have a high degree of inclusive leadership are twice as likely to have at least 40% of top leaders from diverse groups.

Portion of Senior Leaders (VP and Above) from Diverse Groups

  • What are our greatest barriers to having a more inclusive culture?
  • Do our leaders consistently demonstrate the values of our organization?
  • Are there particular strategies or behaviors that are in the most serious need of attention?
  • How can we make inclusive leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion a greater priority without sacrificing other business goals?

Brandon Hall Group asked organizations whether they actively train leaders on 15 specific traits or “personas.” Our previous research and experience advising organizations on diversity, equity and inclusion indicated these traits were important. Our DE&I Certification programs are based on these personas as well as eight strategic and leadership skills.

Among organizations that said their inclusive leader training has been effective or highly effective, these are the seven traits that at least half of these employers focus on now:

• Willing to take risks but avoiding recklessness
• Standing up for what you believe in without intruding on others’ beliefs
• Seeking to do what is right

• Open to continuous learning, valuing the discovery of new things and applying them
• Helping others learn and reach their potential
• Seeking new sources of information and insights and incorporating them into your work and interactions

• Mindfulness of others and their situations
• Showing respect for others and not judging their circumstances, thoughts or actions
• Offering kindness and compassion and proactively supporting other

• Having the ability to be self-reflective and identify inclusive thoughts and actions
• Being open-minded, not opinionated
• Supporting diversity rather than like-mindedness

• Being proactive
• Offering sound decisionmaking and fostering an inclusive approach
• Agility and versatility

• Projecting one’s authentic self
• Behaving ethically in all interactions
• Honesty and transparency about goals and values

• Freely seeking and valuing all opinions
• Understanding the importance of diverse thinking and actions
• Understanding that working together is better than working alone

On average, organizations reporting high effectiveness in inclusive leader training are 72% more likely to train on these personas compared to organizations reporting lower effectiveness, the research shows. While all personas are important, these seven are a great place to begin if you are striving to increase your organization’s focus on inclusive leadership. Inclusion, like most culture-change initiatives, must be supported and demonstrated by leaders. It also must be demonstrated from the front lines to the C-Suite, which is why training on inclusive leadership must occur at all levels. 


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Mike Cooke



Stay connected

Get notified for upcoming news subscribing

Related Content

Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.