Companies increasingly rely on diverse, multidisciplinary teams that combine the ability of those around him to contribute to meetings or participate in conversations.”

  • Displays favoritism: “Work is assigned to the same top performers, creating unsustainable workloads. [There is a] need to give newer team members opportunities to prove themselves.”
  • Discounts alternative views: “[This leader] can have very set ideas on specific topics. Sometimes it is difficult to get an alternative view across. There is a risk that his team may hold back from bringing forward challenging and alternative points of view.”

What leaders say and do has an outsized impact on others, but our research indicates that this effect is even more pronounced when they are leading diverse teams. Subtle words and acts of exclusion by leaders, or overlooking the exclusive behaviors of others, easily reinforces the status quo. It takes energy and deliberate effort to create an inclusive culture, and that starts with leaders paying much more attention to what they say and do on a daily basis and making adjustments as necessary. Here are four ways for leaders to get started:

Know your inclusive-leadership shadow: Seek feedback on whether you are perceived as inclusive, especially from people who are different from you. This will help you to see your blind spots, strengths, and development areas. It will also signal that diversity and inclusion are important to you. Scheduling regular check-ins with members of your team to ask how you can make them feel more included also sends the message.

Be visible and vocal: Tell a compelling and explicit narrative about why being inclusive is important to you personally and the business more broadly. For example, share your personal stories at public forums and conferences.

Deliberately seek out difference: Give people on the periphery of your network the chance to speak up, invite different people to the table, and catch up with a broader network. For example, seek out opportunities to work with cross-functional or multi-disciplinary teams to leverage diverse strengths.

Check your impact: Look for signals that you are having a positive impact. Are people copying your role modeling? Is a more diverse group of people sharing ideas with you? Are people working together more collaboratively? Ask a trusted advisor to give you candid feedback on the areas you have been working on.

There’s more to be learned about how to become an inclusive leader and harness the power of diverse teams, but one thing is clear: leaders who consciously practice inclusive leadership and actively develop their capability will see the results in the superior performance of their diverse teams. 

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