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Are You an Inclusive or Exclusive Leader?

Ways to motivate employees in the workplace by leading appropriately

Two overarching styles of leadership are inclusive and exclusive, and good leaders know when and how to employ each style as they seek ways to motivate employees in the workplace. However, when a leader’s unconscious bias leads to ineffective exclusive leadership, the results on individual employees, teams and the organization can be devastating.

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between exclusive and inclusive leadership and when you might decide to use each style. You’ll also learn how unconscious bias may be shaping your management decisions with unintended consequences.

What is exclusive leadership?

Exclusive leadership is autocratic in its nature, with the leader taking sole responsibility for decision making. While he or she may invite ideas and discussion, the final say is the word of the leader. In this style of leadership, the leader accepts full responsibility and accountability.

When examining ways to motivate employees in the workplace, exclusive leadership may not spring to mind. However, this style of leadership enables rapid decisions to be taken during periods of chaos or change. This said, autocratic leadership limits employee engagement and individual development during change, potentially increasing resistance to change and inhibiting the progress of a change project.

What is inclusive leadership?

Inclusive leadership encourages participation in decision making and problem solving. This democratic style allows employees to feel part of the problem-solving process. This feeling of being a part of something can aid employee motivation, and it aids inclusivity and diversity.

In an inclusive environment all employees feel accepted, irrespective of their cultural background. Leaders will employ an influencing strategy, providing coaching and mentorship as they encourage individuals and teams to embrace accountability. Essential leadership skills needed by inclusive leaders include:

  • Energy and enthusiasm
  • Integrity
  • Humility
  • High emotional intelligence

Inclusive leaders will listen with focus, and they will speak openly and honestly. They will put people at ease, helping others to know that they are understood. They will be receptive to opinions and ideas, and seek to aid the personal development of their employees.

Inclusive leadership can motivate people to engage with collective goals and organizational vision, though it can also slow down decision making and the achievement of goals.

Exclusion by unconscious bias

The feeling of being excluded can leave an employee questioning his or her ability, value and self-worth. It causes disengagement at work, and dissatisfaction with the boss – a direct consequence of which is an increase in staff turnover. It follows that good leaders turn to autocratic methods only when needed. However, unconscious bias can lead to unintended exclusive behaviors.

We all have biases, and most of us have subconscious people preferences that align with our own interests, perceived knowledge and expertise, status, background and outlook.

When a leader chooses to act exclusively, he or she makes conscious decisions and controls their actions. When exclusion is because of unconscious bias, there is no control over these actions. Unless a leader is able to identify and resist unconscious bias, then the damaging effects of unintended exclusiveness will persist and could cause potentially irretrievable damage to individuals and teams.

How do you eliminate unconscious bias toward exclusive leadership?

Inclusive leadership is a style that motivates employees and encourages greater employee engagement. It is, therefore, a goal for most leaders, especially in today’s flatter organizational hierarchies. But if your leaders don’t know that they are being exclusive, how do you put them in control of their actions so that their leadership behavior is appropriate in all circumstances?

The answer is to help your leaders become more self-aware. By developing an understanding of their own values, actions and reactions, leaders will be better able to employ an unbiased, democratic style as they:

  • Listen to the opinions of all individuals
  • Treat every employee with equivalent empathy, and appreciate differences of opinion
  • Lead by coaching and mentoring, with the aim of developing all team members to reach their potential
  • Communicate transparently, in an environment that encourages people to be open and honest
  • Offer opportunities for people to take responsibility and work on their own personal development

For further insight into how to develop your leaders and eliminate their unconscious bias, contact Forward Focus today. We’ll help you discover how our Management Development Series could help your managers and leaders become more emotionally intelligent and better influence performance.

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