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Inclusive Leadership... driving performance through diversity! 2016

Conference Report: 9 March 2016


We now have a much greater understanding of how unconscious bias impacts leadership behaviours and decision making and there is a growing body of research to suggests that traditional ‘command and control’ leadership styles are no longer fit for purpose in today’s modern workplace, which is increasingly defined by its diversity and a re-shaping of employee motivations. The need for leaders to develop an inclusive mind-set is now more urgent for organisations working cross-borders whose colleagues do business with customers, clients and other stakeholders from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.

enei’s thought leadership conference on 9 March 2016 delivered a comprehensive overview of Inclusive Leadership, exploring key questions such as: 

  • What is inclusive leadership and why is it important for success in the global economy?
  • Are there, and should there be, any differences between the way we run national and global businesses? 
  • What skills are required by future leaders to ensure they are able to manage and leverage diverse talent in culturally competent ways? 

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, CIPD

Peter Cheese

Peter opened the conference with a keynote address in which he explored where we are on our journey towards maximising the organisational benefits of achieving diversity and inclusion. He observed that D&I is not a new phenomenon, but that organisations still had substantial progress to make, since getting to real diversity remained a challenge.

He closed by welcoming enei’s research which takes forward the importance of tackling unconscious bias in organisational decision making and sets out a valuable framework to assist in charting a model for inclusive leadership and identifying the core competencies essential for a leader in the world of today and tomorrow.

Allyson Zimmermann, Executive Director, Catalyst Europe

Allyson Zimmermann

Echoing Peter Cheese’s view of diversity, Allyson opened by highlighting that we have for too long focused on the visible aspects of diversity, such as gender, race and age whilst ignoring aspects which remain below the waterline. To make the most of the diversity of the global talent pool it is now critical to pay attention to hidden differences such as value systems, education and thinking style.

Lack of inclusion has its roots in a feeling of being the “other”, and this can be felt by anyone. It might be not having a degree – or even a particular degree – not having the “right accent”, or being of a particular personality type.

Catalyst’s international study of inclusive leadership (Inclusion Matters) took in the views of a large sample of MBA graduates across six countries (India, USA, Australia, China, Mexico and Germany). It found that universally – with the exception of India – individuals defined inclusion as a combination of uniqueness and belonging; but that there was a need to balance that which makes us different and that which brings us together. Focusing on one aspect in isolation will not achieve optimal results. The benefits of inclusive leadership are improvements in productivity, innovation, team citizenship and workplace effectiveness.

The research identified four traits characteristic of an inclusive leader, a mindset summarised by the mnemonic “EACH”.

Dan Robertson, Diversity & Inclusion Director, enei

Dan Robertson

Dan gave a summary of enei’s research into Inclusive Leadership, recently conducted by a team under the supervision of Gloria Moss (including Ceri Sims, Ian Dodds and Alan David) working under the aegis of Buckinghamshire New University and sponsored by the CIPD, Santander, EY and Affinity Sutton.

enei wanted to understand what Inclusive Leadership is, and the part it might play in the future. The principal aims of the research were to produce a robust model and definition of IL and to understand

  1. The extent to which IL is prevalent in organisations
  2. The perceived impact of IL: The extent to which diverse people are valued and the presence of IL affected self-perceptions of productivity, satisfaction and engagement
  3. The individual, situational and strategic context for IL: The extent to which organisation’s strategy and ways of working impact IL and the associated influence

The key findings of the research are:

1 A new model of Inclusive Leadership has emerged supported by 15 distinct competencies, which are all equally important.

2 People working with Inclusive Leaders are more:

  • Productive
  • Satisfied
  • Engaged

The correlation in the survey between the degree of IL and self-ratings of performance, satisfaction and engagement was very high at 0.89.

3 People at all levels believe that Inclusive Leadership results in many positive outcomes for the organisation and the individual:

  • Enhanced performance and productivity
  • Enhanced loyalty
  • The advance of under-represented groups
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Better services to clients, customers and service users
  • Better teamwork
  • Motivation to go the extra mile
  • High retention
  • Diverse talent pool

4 A robust definition of Inclusive Leadership:

Leaders who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. They see diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage and inspire diverse people to drive organisational and individual performance towards a shared vision.

5 Inclusive Leadership must be role modelled from the top to have the greatest impact

6 Having an organisational strategy based on ‘explore’ rather than ‘exploit’ factors will help in the achievement of Inclusive Leadership

7 BME employees, those with over five years’ service and disabled respondents report lower ratings of overall Inclusive Leadership. There are no differences in overall survey ratings for the presence or absence of IL by gender, sexuality, religion, caring responsibilities (exc. non-childcare) or educational achievement.

Based on the research, enei recommends that organisations:

  • Review recruitment and promotion criteria to ensure IL competencies are included
  • Review management development and reward programmes to ensure IL behaviours are promoted and rewarded
  • Monitor attitudes and culture of IL

enei has developed a new Inclusive Leadership assessment tool which examines the 15 IL Competencies and 45 Behavioural Indicators.

Marjorie Strachan, Group Head of Inclusion, Royal Bank of Scotland

Marjorie Strachan

Marjorie focused on a critical examination of what inclusive leadership at a practical level means for RBS, primarily concentrating on what results have been achieved from a gender perspective.

Lessons critical to RBS’ success have been:

  • Keep it simple
  • Have a clear business led narrative which illustrates the tangible commercial benefits of an inclusive organisation
  • Obtain commitment
  • Agree priorities and measureable outcomes
  • Make it part of the mainstream, i.e. not stand alone (Purpose, Vision, Values, etc.)
  • Be clear on accountability

Maggie Stilwell, UK&I Managing Partner for Talent, EY

Maggie Stilwell

EY reviewed its D and I strategy in 2011, realising that there were some key issues to be addressed before it could realise competitive advantage. Specifically, in relation to gender and ethnicity:

  • Representation
  • Attrition
  • Ratings and promotions
  • Employee satisfaction

This led the firm to realise the need to focus not just on under-represented group themselves, but on the management behaviours that could affect outcomes for those groups, and on the part that inclusive leadership could play.

And for Maggie, success will involve the realisation of overcoming affinity bias in such a way that it will feel normal for decision makers to feel at ease about putting themselves in the shoes of those from outsider groups.

“All the people like us are We, and every one else is They.”

Paula Dunne, Head of Engagement & Wellbeing, Santander UK

Paula Dunne

Paula summarised the cultural journey that Santander had taken since the acquisition of three UK building societies (Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley) and their rebranding under Santander in 2009/10.

But to address the question: are we all pulling in the same direction? Santander embarked on a number of initiatives including CEO roadshows, the production of a “We are Santander” booklet setting out where people fit in to the business strategy and a comprehensive intranet resource to provide employees with a one-stop portal. By 2015 – and based on survey results from all employees – Santander’s progress had been recognised by its inclusion as one of the Sunday Times “25 Best Big Companies to Work For”.

Measurement is now key to embedding a sustainable culture within Santander, and initiatives have included testing out reactions to bad and disruptive behaviours, observational measurement and the piloting of a real-time App to gauge employee wellbeing and sense of engagement to amplify data from employee surveys.

Sandra Sanglin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Affinity Sutton 

Sandra Sanglin

As a housing association, Affinity Sutton is a social enterprise which means that its values are somewhat different from an organisation operating in the purely commercial sector: it is highly values-driven, with a mission to help people put down roots.

The openness and trust across the organisation is exemplified by the way in which individuals can be open about sensitive issues such as sexual orientation and mental health.

enei’s research provides an opportunity for the organisation to reflect and take stock, and consider how best to take forward work on applying the IL competencies and use the assessment tool.

Harry Gaskell, Chief Innovation Officer UK &I, EY

Chair, enei

Harry Gaskell

Harry closed the conference by thanking the hosts and sponsors, and all speakers for a highly informative and valuable event.

He emphasised that the business benefits of diversity can only be truly realised in the context of inclusive leadership, and that enei’s research had now given us a robust definition of what IL is, demonstrable evidence of the link between IL and performance and a highly valuable set of the competencies which underpin successful inclusive leadership.

This should help organisations cope with the challenges they face in today’s world and dramatically change not only the working environment but society in the broader sense.


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