Why You Should Stop Building Inclusive Leaders (and what you should do instead)
The Jasmar Group is a behavioural change consultancy helping companies build team belonging, performance and culture. We apply an evidence-based framework to better engage a diverse workforce and create a culture where everyone’s voice is amplified.
Our focus on evidence is why we moved from building “Inclusive Leaders” to “Transformational Leaders”. The bottom line is that transformational leadership is the most effective leadership style, backed by a history of evidence and rigourous measurement. This means we can assess, with high consistency, exactly what transformational leadership is and who practices these behaviours. “Inclusive Leadership”, on the other hand, is relatively new, untested, and doesn’t have a universal standard for measurement.
Transformational leaders excel at communicating a clear vision and motivating their team with their passion and commitment. They lead by example, engaging their team on an emotional level, rather than telling them what to do. They challenge the status quo, push boundaries, and support their followers to do the same, encouraging ideas, creativity and each person’s unique contributions. They exhibit the characteristics required to lead a diverse team; curiosity, openness, courage, humility and collaboration – all the traits typically associated with inclusive leadership, yet without the underlying assumption that being an exclusive leader is an option.
Transformational leadership is a better understood and embraced term, with clearly identified skills and behaviours required to lead all team members. These competencies don’t reside in the D+I silo as a stand-alone initiative, but rather should be firmly embedded into evaluation, promotion and leadership processes. It should be an expectation, not a nice-to-have, that all leaders have the skills to lead for diverse thinking teams, recognizing the barriers experienced by some groups and not others and striving for equity over equality. We need to simplify leadership, not complicate it, which is what we’re doing by labeling a leadership style as “inclusive”.
So, let’s explore how to build transformational leaders so that everyone feels included for increased innovation, creativity and team performance. Transformational leaders do four things: they build trust, act with integrity, encourage innovation, and develop their people.
Builds Trust: Leaders instill pride in the team’s work by empowering employees to reach their goals
Acts with Integrity: The leader acts in line with their values and the organization’s mission
Encourages Innovation: Leaders encourage their teams to explore new ideas, embracing risk, failure, and continuous learning
Develops People: Team members are supported to be their unique selves and recognized for their contributions
We Need Leadership That Meets Our Universal BAM Needs
Transformational leaders serve their teams by tapping into their BAM needs: belonging, autonomy, and mastery. These BAM needs are our deepest motivational drivers. Leaders can and should fulfill these needs in their team. We all need to belong to a group, have autonomy over ourselves, and strive for mastery.
When leaders build belonging, team members feel connected and support their group
When leaders create autonomy, team members are coached to find the answer, not micromanaged
When leaders enable mastery, team members grow and develop while collaborating
Leaders that serve these three needs can better motivate their teams, create a safe space to speak up, and ensure everyone’s voice is amplified. The result? Stronger business results, including higher motivation, retention, and performance.
Transformational Leaders Practice Tiny BAM Habits
The key is to ensure leaders are meeting the BAM needs of every unique team member. We know that some groups have more barriers in the workplace than others, and we all succumb to over 150 cognitive biases, including treating those similar to us more favourably.
How can we practice Tiny BAM Habits to create psychological safety and innovation, for everyone? Here are three habits that leaders can practice every day:
1) Recognition is Contagious
When leaders design for belonging, team members pass positive feelings, like gratitude, onto others, motivating them to go above and beyond for others. The Tiny BAM Habit of recognizing each person’s unique contribution through questions such as, “Do you have suggestions to improve our approach so far?” or “How can we use your unique skills in this new project?”, has rippling effects throughout the organization.
2) Communicate Specific, Easy-to-Imagine Goals
The Tiny BAM Habit to frame team goals with specificity makes a big difference in team performance. Teams can reach that specific, easy-to-imagine goal faster than a vague, abstract concept. Grand speeches with intangible messages and a focus on values can feel inspiring, but they don’t offer people a sense of control. Leaders can give teams a sense of autonomy, provide a shared purpose, and can make innovation possible when they communicate goals using concrete descriptors of people, objects and actions.
3) Bring Your Best Self to Work
Aviation safety requires that, in the event of an emergency, parents place their air mask on themselves before their child. The same holds true for leaders. Transformational leaders know that their stress levels directly impact the motivation and engagement of their employees. Counteract demanding work and personal stresses by building your own Tiny BAM Habits to look after your mental and physical health. Your team will love you for it!
Small changes. Big difference.
Transformational leaders are inclusive. By practicing Tiny BAM Habits every day and recognizing the uniqueness of each team member, these leaders create the right conditions for innovation. One small action at a time, consistently delivered to your team, is the recipe for better leadership.
Let’s Make Inclusion Stick!
Sylvia Apostolidis, President, The Jasmar Group
Natasha Ouslis, Principal Behavioural Scientist, The Jasmar Group
The Jasmar Group is a behaviour change consultancy that helps organizations build team belonging, culture, and performance.
Interested in a new approach to building a diverse and inclusive workplace? Book HERE for a free consultation with Sylvia Apostolidis.