How can leaders become more inclusive?by
Most leaders today recognise the benefits of sharing responsibility. The days of top-down hierarchies are almost behind us. It’s difficult for an elite group of people at the top to cope with the complex challenges facing organisations today without involving others.
No matter what market you operate in, there is still a lot of volatility and uncertainty around, even as we emerge from recession. There has been a widespread erosion of trust. Public dissatisfaction with big financial intuitions and politicians has had an impact on how leaders everywhere are regarded. There is a demand for more authentic, values-based leadership – and for greater transparency. Leaders are being forced to change, and the old style of command and control leadership just doesn’t cut it any more.
So, how can leaders cope with the changing demands of customers, employees, and our unpredictable world? Becoming more inclusive is becoming increasingly important. We all need to work in a more joined up way – to be more connected.
How can you become more connected? It is critical to communicate a clear direction, purpose and values to engage employees inside the organisation as well as customers beyond it. Leaders can achieve this if they lead through influence rather than control, and devolve decision-making across organisations. This relies on effective communication and connection across the organisation based on a consistent set of assumptions.
A connected leader also needs to be an emotionally intelligent leader, able to manage his or her emotional energy and to mobilise, focus and renew the collective energy of others. This is particularly important in today’s multigenerational, multicultural workplaces. The ability to listen, to learn, and to adapt leadership style to the needs of different people is a prized asset.
As a leader, the ability to understand and manage your own behaviour and to empathise with others is a valuable skill. This can help you build critical connections that result in deep commitment to shared values and goals.
My own research into the area of connected leadership has identified a definite move away from the cult of the ‘hero’ leader to a new post-heroic culture which is more in line with society’s emphasis on values, democracy and transparency of information.
More effective collaboration is important to the organisations I work with as they aim to introduce a more connected, inclusive style of leadership. They are keen to encourage their people to adapt and learn while remaining true to the core mission of the organisation.
There are five key factors at the heart of connected leadership:
Direction: To create belief
When organisations have a clear sense of what they are trying to achieve and a shared understanding of why they exist, there is shared purpose around which people can organise and achieve great things.
Values: To create trust
Leaders who act in a way that is in line with common standards of ethics and build relationships of trust stimulate strong commitment among the people they support.
Decisions: To create involvement
The key to inclusive leadership is the sharing of power across an organisation so that decisions are made closer to the customer, by people who are capable to make them in line with overall strategy and purpose.
Teams: To create results
There has been an increasing emphasis on effective team working in recent years as a better way to achieve great performance than through a more traditional command and control approach. When teams are empowered to operate and to cooperate with other teams across the processes of work, performance improvements are common.
Change: To create responsibility
For organisations to adapt to changing conditions, a focus on learning and development is important. In our complex world, one size does not fit all. Developing and encouraging people to learn, to experiment and to adapt helps keep them engaged, motivated, and willing to take responsibility for shared leadership.
Instead of organisations creating more controls (and the associated bureaucracy) to become more inclusive, many want to create a more empowered environment and a new level of simplicity. This in turn requires a high degree of trust among people in the organisation – trust that each person and team will play a part in the process, and trust that each individual will seek what’s best for the whole business based on a shared purpose. It’s up to leaders to be role models for trust and inclusivity.
Simon Hayward welcomes your views on this article and can be contacted at [email protected]
CEO of leadership specialist Cirrus, Honorary Professor at Alliance Manchester Business School, author of The Agile Leader: How to create an agile business in the Digital Age and The Connected Leadership: How to build a more agile, customer-focused business.