Top 6 Qualities of Inclusive Leaders


A key aspect of retention in any organization is a culture of inclusion. When your employees feel as if they’re excluded or lack support in their workplace, it can breed feelings of frustration, fear, isolation, lack of motivation, and more.

On the other hand, when inclusion permeates your organization, employees feel their ideas and contributions are valued, and they are supported on every level. Bonus: they are even less likely to leave your organization.

According to research by Great Place To Work Institute, employees who trust that they’ll be treated fairly no matter their age, race, gender, or sexual orientation are:

  • 9.8x more likely to look forward to going to work,
  • 6.3x more likely to have pride in their work, and
  • 5.4x more likely to want to stay at the company for a long time.
So, what is inclusion?

Inclusion is the practice of welcoming and valuing each of the unique perspectives and talents of your employee population. An inclusive workplace encourages employees from diverse backgrounds to show up as their authentic selves.

It’s important to distinguish inclusion from diversity. While a diverse workplace welcomes all races, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, etc., it does not necessarily make the workplace inclusive. An organization is truly inclusive when each of its diverse populations is equally welcomed, respected, engaged, heard, and valued throughout your organization.

Inclusion from the top down

Developing a culture of inclusion in your organization must start from the top. When leadership, from the executive team down through your management structure, develops and practices inclusion skills daily, this has the greatest impact on your employee population. Managers are key to the success of your inclusion program.

What does an inclusive manager look like?

Inclusive managers are self-aware, empathetic, humble, and encouraging. They also strive to set a positive example for others and focus on continuous improvement.

  1. Self-aware: Conduct a self-analysis to identify your own biases. Harvard University provides a tool called “Project Implicit,” where you can test yourself to measure your implicit biases in several categories.
  2. Empathetic: Genuinely care for your employees, including their personal struggles, mental health, and general well-being.
  3. Humble: Nobody is perfect on the journey to an inclusive culture. It’s okay to make mistakes. Own them, learn from them, and move forward.
  4. Encouraging: Promote authenticity from each of your employees. When employees experience the freedom to be their authentic selves, it fosters an environment of creativity and innovation stemming from such diverse backgrounds.
  5. Setting an Example: Practice what you preach. Strive to instill a culture of inclusion at every level, and be transparent with your team when you make mistakes. Encourage your team to join you in an open dialogue.
  6. Continuously Improving: Seek out new ways to improve inclusion at your organization. The learning never stops. Establish a continuous feedback loop between your management team and employees to identify issues, receive recommendations, and implement solutions.
Inclusion: Everybody Wins

Your employees experience higher job satisfaction, which leads to higher retention rates. The team experiences increased creativity and enthusiasm, which accelerates success for the organization. When managers foster an inclusive environment using the tools above, everybody wins.