What is Inclusive Leadership?

Many organizations are transforming their culture from top-down leadership to inclusive leadership. Approximately three-quarters of organizations develop, support and promote leaders who drive a culture of diversity and inclusion and leaders who empower collaboration, according to Brandon Hall Group research. Fostering an inclusive workplace is the most important people strategy in 2021, according to Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Outlook Study. That requires leaders to set a strong example every single day.

Inclusive leadership is not intuitive to many people, especially veteran leaders who worked for many years in cultures where leaders were expected to have all the answers and be in control. Transitioning to inclusive leadership is now more difficult for some organizations because of the increased number of employees working remotely.

Inclusive leadership requires development of behaviors that need reinforcement and practice. But most leadership development is classroom-focused and many organizations don’t provide leaders with needed time for self-reflection or provide targeted skill exercises that they can do quickly as time allows. Therefore, most organizations don’t believe their LD programs have a significant impact on the business.

Can You Demonstrably Prove Your Leadership Development Programs Have Significantly Impacted Your Organization’s Ability to Meet Business Objectives?

To develop inclusive leaders, organizations should answer several critical questions, including:

  • What types of leaders are needed to make our organization successful?
  • What must we do to develop the types of leaders we need?
  • How do we build a culture of collaboration that embraces the inclusive leadership needed to navigate new challenges through collective wisdom and innovation?

Inclusive leadership is the foundation for leveraging the diverse capabilities and experiences of the workforce to drive organizations forward. The foundation of inclusive leadership is self-awareness of biases, habits and triggers that can impede employees’ sense of belonging and feeling valued and heard.

Inclusive leaders are humble enough to acknowledge their vulnerabilities and collaborate with others to create the best environment and workplace. The keys to inclusive leadership are prioritizing collaboration and open-mindedness over control and enabling others to actively contribute to the organization’s success. This enables an environment of psychological safety that gives everyone an opportunity to bring their true selves to work. Inclusive leadership takes many forms.


  • Actively show empathy and support when employees express a viewpoint that is different from yours or the majority opinion.
  • Advocate for employees being allies, coaches and mentors for each other.
  • For team meetings, take turns having employees set the agenda and run the meeting. This promotes shared ownership and drives engagements.
  • Be proactive in ensuring remote employees are actively included in virtual meetings. It is not enough that they are included in video conferencing. Make sure they have a chance to be heard.
  • Recognize employees on a regular basis for meaningful contributions; ensure no one individual or a few individuals are disproportionately acknowledged.
  • Ensure opportunities for promotions and high-visibility projects are equitably provided to everyone. Candidates should be evaluated according to the same standards. Be aware of your biases and collaborate to make decisions that mitigate them.
  • Collaborate inclusively. Every person has unique strengths. People who might not appear to be the best fit for a discussion may have a different experience or viewpoint that can make a difference.
  • Be comfortable with conflict and disagreement as long as it is expressed constructively, respectfully and professionally.

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.

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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.