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Sep 2011 Diversity & Inclusion Best Practice

Building inclusive cultures for sustainable business success requires transformational leadership

In the July Best Practice I wrote about how transformational leadership delivers business results and sustains them. This created a lot of interest and this month I want to look at how transformational leadership is critical in driving the culture change necessary to build an inclusive organisation. It is the strategic effort put into building an inclusive culture which delivers the business benefits from having diverse work and market places, e.g. enhanced employee engagement and higher productivity, reduced turnover and, consequently, lower recruitment costs, reduced absenteeism, better understanding of diverse markets, and more innovative and creative problem solving. For example, research by Gallop in the UK (2006) showed that those companies that had employee engagement scores in the top quartile averaged 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability than others in the survey.


Much of the leadership offered in organisations is ‘transactional’ in that ‘the system’ has evolved so frontline employees spend the majority of their time on the system itself. This does not enlist the workforce in sharing and pursuing a vision of future success for the organisation. If this is to include the successes that come from a future inclusive organisation, it has to transform what, in the West, is inevitably a white, masculine script culture, which values the behaviours and management and leadership practices characteristic of white men, into one which is more inclusive of everyone. That requires long-term transformational, strategic effort to enable the organisation to obtain the business problem solving, i.e. cognitive diversity, benefits from embracing different ways of thinking and behaving and management and leadership styles.


Transformational leadership inspires and enlists the workforce to go beyond their individual concerns and together strive to achieve the vision of shared success through building an inclusive high performance culture. It creates dissatisfaction with the limitations of the white, masculine script culture. It engages the workforce in devising the necessary changes and helping implement them. Furthermore, it puts effort into understanding and addressing the ‘cost’ of change to people. The ‘costs’ are usually concerned with people’s concerns about having to adapt new skills, relationships and behaviours to deliver the vision successfully.


In the July Best Practice I explained that the challenges that organisations of all types face are presently so demanding that they can only be addressed by engaging their workforces in long-term strategic transformational effort. This is especially true of building an inclusive culture which engages everyone in contributing to meeting the needs of diverse customers, clients or service users. It requires transformational leaders who:

1. Offer a clear vision and long-term direction of how success will be generated.

2. Inclusively engage and empower their workforces to deliver the vision.

3. Offer ‘interested’ management which ensures that everyone:

a. Is clear about the contribution they each need to make in delivering the vision.

b. Has access to the information they need to deliver their contribution.

c. Is offered any necessary training or coaching to enable them to develop the new   skills and behaviours they need.

d. Is given feedback on their progress and efforts and recognition of their successes,   including small wins.


IDC has indepth and extensive experience of enabling organisations to build inclusive cultures which successfully deliver the associated business dividends through transformational leadership underpinned by best practice culture change methodology. Please get in touch if you want to discuss this further.


Dr Ian Dodds,


28 Aug 2011

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