Posted on January 28, 2010 in Articles, Coaching, Inclusive Leadership, Leadership by Rachael

  AA | AA


Organisations need leaders who are adept at working with people who seem different from themselves – often due to increased work with partners and businesses outside the UK. This allows leaders to truly live their brand as an employer who values diversity.

What is it like to be an inclusive leader – ie someone who really enjoys  – and has great skill at  – leading a diverse team? What are the skills involved? Is it something you could aspire to being?

Thinking about an inspiring leader I know, who is a real role model, here are some of the key aspects of being a truly “inclusive leader”:

  • He has a sense of a wide breadth of purpose – he sees his role as building connections far and wide – well beyond his UK based function.
  • He has an expansive sense of community and team – he sees himself as part of a european and global community, as well as a leader of his UK marketing team.
  • He is endlessly curious about other people – what makes them tick? He acknowledges that this is a vital resource for him – it helps him to build a connection with new people, and keep familiar colleagues fascinating!
  • He tends to ask more questions,and move into opinions later, particularly when first meeting someone.
  • He is intrigued by different cultures and countries, and travels for pleasure as well as business, and is comfortable adapting to different cultural norms.
  • He enjoys working with women “because they often come at problems in a different way from me”
  • He has a wide breadth of skills across the technical and emotional intelligence spectrum – from strategy and vision, through to engagement and motivation.
  • He is aware that his listening, empathy and connecting capability are a vital part of his portfolio of skills and recognises these as just as valuable as his visionary and strategic skills.
  • He is alert to making sure his desire to be right is overwhelmed by his  desire to find a common truth and purpose.

In a recent coaching meeting he reminded himself of the “curiosity trick” he plays: Recently he was interviewing a potential business associate from a country he knows little about. During the meeting he noticed a sense of unease in himself and recognised the slight feeling of anxiety and some stronger feelings of judgement.

He has got to a point now where he is able to put those feelings of anxiety and judgement “on hold”, and move into more of a feeling of curiosity – asking a few more questions and suspending judgement until he has found out more.

The Aikido Japanese tradition call this abilty to maintain a state of curiosity “irimi.” It’s described as the ability to “cut through our opposition to something.”

I suggest that cultivating a balance of this “curiosity” within the  moment by moment judgements a leader has to make is a key to being a truly inclusive leader.

And the great news is that this is something that with some coaching, and as with any skill, with practice, you can learn to do for yourself!