Leadership, whether it is perceived as good or bad (seldom as mediocre), is quite often unacknowledged. Yet, studying and understanding leadership is perhaps one of the most “burning” themes in organisations today. So why is it that individuals spend so much time on trying to define an ‘ideal’ style of leadership. Whilst so many of your colleagues and peers may fall under the category of those believing in ‘The Outcome Bias’ (judging a past decision by its outcome), rather than based on the merits of the decision made at the time.
Well, I cannot provide you with an answer as I am also guilty of being one of those common enthusiasts chasing idealism. So instead, let me tell you a bit about an ‘idealistic’ leadership style that is tied to inclusiveness.
Leadership can be defined as the process of providing assistance and guidance to employees’ tasks or a group’s functions, through direct or indirect influence on their behavior. In most cases, it is an essential tool, to the functioning of organisations within every society. In more recent years, studying leadership success promotes a more social identity focused realm. This suggests that above all, a successful leader must demonstrate a shared sense of social identity with those they want to influence (Haslam, Eggins, Reynolds, 2003).
With today’s workforce gradually becoming more culturally diverse, inclusion has taken a front-line position as a fundamental part of leadership. In a leadership setting, inclusion is a term used to refer to an individual’s affinity to think of the self in association with a certain group, and in turn perceive the group’s characteristics applicable to the self.
Inclusive leadership centres around doing things with people, rather than to people. This style of leadership is of great interest to anyone who is looking to realise themselves as an effective leader.
Taking into account inclusion as the underlying concept, an inclusive leadership style can be defined as displayed by those leaders who exhibit openness, accessibility, and availability in their interactions with employees.It is interesting that this particular style distinguishes itself from others by including the employee in jointly contributing to the leadership-employee relationship. It provides an environment that promotes fairness and values all parties’ contributions to input and output. We can agree that leadership inclusiveness that focusses on both parties also results in a positive effect on the employee’s well-being.
When inclusive leaders appreciate and acknowledge an employee’s input, employees develop a sense of trust, empowerment and value, and perceives the organisation as a social entity expressing genuine appreciation and respect for their opinion.
Inclusive leadership can be said to be a reciprocal process, with leaders recognising employees’ needs and, in turn, employees responding to their leaders’ needs. The positive psychological effect that an employee develops through their leader’s genuine inclusion, support and concern, suggests that inclusive leadership may have a much deeper role in benefiting employees and may enhance their perception of the organisation as a whole.
Firstly, identity is how people define themselves in relation to others and within the context in which they find themselves (Adams et al., 2016). The rather complex concept of identity is primarily social in nature. Through self-identification, individuals are able to identify where they best fit in the social environment and develop a sense of belonging.
In an organisational context, the definition of ‘identity’ has evolved and gone through several complex classifications. A more recent one is ‘organisational identification’. This is where an employee identifies with the organisation and supports the organisation’s goals and its leadership. For instance, an employee will assume the organisation’s successes and failures as their own. This can mean that identification with the organisation enables employees to internalise organisational values and beliefs, as well as feel loyalty, solidarity and commitment towards the organisation.
The evidence suggests that inclusive leaders who display supportive behaviours, can make a difference by meeting employees’ needs for organisational approval and inclusion. In turn, this could lead to increased organisational identification among employees. Providing employees with an opportunity to participate in decision making could serve as a motivating tool and lead to the employees’ organisational identification and sense of belonging. This reinforces the idea that when employees have a positive relationship with leadership, they exhibit a higher level of organisational commitment.
Regardless of whether you want to lead or be led, including your employees in an upcoming decision will most likely provide benefits to you and the organization. However, like almost anything else, leadership is not a ‘one size fits all’ concept. As with most cases, the art of balancing a scale should be implied. On one side of the scale we have the involvement and tasks delegated amongst the experts and on the other side of the scale are the topics and decisions reserved solely for the leader.
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