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The Six Cs of Inclusive Leadership

The Highrise Team
September 24, 2022
3 executives discussing cs of inclusive leadership.
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As the global market rapidly expands, so does a desire for highly inclusive leaders that welcome change rather than resist it.

Highly inclusive leaders embrace change by building teams cohesive yet diverse in culture, talent, and ideas. 

Diverse groups are a force to be reckoned with as they can meet and exceed the unique needs of an ever-changing market.

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What Is Inclusive Leadership?

Inclusive leaders seek and welcome diversity in every person they work alongside, including but not limited to other employees, customers, and stakeholders. 

Such leaders practice flexibility and self-awareness to ensure each person feels valued, heard, and safe enough to share their different perspectives. 

Three executives discussing 6 cs of inclusive leadership

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What Are the 6 Cs of Inclusive Leaders?

Through a comprehensive literature review and several interviews with inclusive leaders across the globe, Deloitte Insight identified six signature traits of inclusive leaders, also known as the 6 Cs of inclusive leadership.

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1. Commitment 

Inclusive leaders are committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment. Their commitment is intrinsic and unwavering as it stems from personal values and trust in an inclusive business case. 

Leaders dedicated to inclusion:   

  • Invest in resources that build diversity and inclusion
  • Prioritize fairness and respect 
  • Stress the importance of different viewpoints to colleagues 
  • Track and take personal responsibility for inclusive effort outcomes 
  • Find ways to include and connect each person to the larger group 
  • Recognize and value each person's diversity 

Not only is a committed, highly inclusive leader crucial to fostering a healthy workplace culture, but it’s also necessary for business success.

The digital world makes new thoughts easier to share and more accessible than ever, resulting in constantly changing market trends. 

Hence, the need for a team full of diverse perspectives, ideas, and abilities capable of addressing current demands.

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2. Courage

Creating a diverse team and inclusive work environment is impossible without courageous leadership and management

Highly inclusive leaders display courage by challenging the status quo, their colleagues, and even themselves. To do so, they utilize bold yet respectful questioning. 

Here’s what that looks like in action: 

  • Being aware of their weaknesses and asking colleagues for assistance in overcoming them 
  • Owning their mistakes 
  • Softly questioning business practices and individual behaviors that threaten diversity and inclusion 
  • Displaying a genuine interest in continually improving diversity and inclusiveness 

Perhaps the most evident trait of a courageous leader is humility. Courageous leaders adopt a posture that indicates they are open to respectful questioning from others.

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3. Cognizance of Bias 

Of the six traits of inclusive leadership, cognizance of bias may be the most important. Becoming hyper-aware of and concerned for blind spots you and an organization may have, lays the groundwork imperative to inclusive leadership. 

Blind spots lead to deep-rooted and unconscious biases that may even require executive coaching to manage

While everyone carries unconscious biases, learning to recognize and take responsibility for them fosters permanent change. 

Unconscious biases within the workplace include: 

  • Affinity bias: Favoriting people that look or act like us 
  • Cultural stereotypes: Having preconceived notions about a person based on their race, religion, language, or ethnicity. 
  • Attribution bias: Assuming or misunderstanding the reason behind someone’s behavior. 

Organizational biases narrow when employees practice self-regulation and fair play. 

Self-regulating leaders recognize what prompts their biases and take careful measures to avoid falling under their influence. 

Fair leaders make merit-based and evidence-backed choices regarding talent and transparently communicate with employees affected by said decisions.

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4. Curiosity

In 2013, the Center for Creative Leadership conducted a study that identified rapid organizational change as one of the most significant challenges leaders within the workforce could expect to face.  

Their predictions were accurate. In 2018, MIT released a study that showed businesses that viewed the global market's rapid change as a means for innovation rather than a means of fear are more successful.  

Curiosity is the single most important trait a leader needs to remain competitive within their industry.

Curious leaders rely on their colleagues' different ideas and talents to find solutions they cannot find alone.  

Curious leadership behaviors consist of:   

  • Taking a genuine interest in gaining knowledge 
  • Inviting colleagues to express their opinions freely 
  • Seeking to understand unique perspectives 
  • Withholding judgment from shared thoughts
  • Actively finding ways to connect diverse people

Curious leaders typically display a high level of cultural intelligence, as well. 

A leader talking to two executives.

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5. Cultural Intelligence 

Culturally intelligent leaders don’t view their own culture as superior or inherently right in a business case. Instead, they leverage the perspectives of the various cultures on their team.  

However, cultural awareness extends past leveraging different perspectives. Inclusive leaders have an authentic desire to learn more about other cultures. 

They display this desire by: 

  • Immersing themselves in environments culturally unique to their own 
  • Preparing for cross-cultural interactions to remain respectful
  • Seeking opportunities to collaborate with colleagues of varying cultures  
  • Practicing respectful behavioral responses across various cultures 
  • Leading culturally diverse teams with joy and ease 

Such charismatic leadership builds a team’s rapport, so employees feel safe enough to contribute. 

Becoming culturally adept doesn’t only improve the working environment, but it also enhances the relationships you have across your industry and opens new doors. 

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6. Collaboration 

An inclusive leader builds collaborative teams secure enough to bounce pure yet respectful ideas off one another. 

Too many work teams fall under autocratic leadership, allowing a single person to dominate the decision-making process. 

Some employees may even believe they think too diversely to share, but that kind of thinking is likely what got them hired. 

Leaders can replace unproductive efforts with effective collaboration by understanding their team's diverse thinking styles. 

For instance, some people are extroverted, and others are introverted. Some team members process internally, while others verbalize every thought they have. 

An inclusive leader seeks ways to foster environments that provide each thinking style the chance to share. Here's how:  

  • Making a conscious effort to hear from every team member 
  • Assisting team members in navigating disagreements 
  • Emphasizing respect and cohesiveness 
  • Trusting team members to make decisions

The Bottom Line

Did you know that 74 percent of millennials, the largest generation within the workforce, believe successful innovations stem from inclusive work cultures? The same article reveals that a diverse team generates more money. 

The global market not only values but demands diversity. Therefore, the greatest influence in leadership you'll ever find is when you prioritize just that—diversity of culture, talent, and thought.

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