Inclusive leadership and cultural intelligence

Leadership inclusif

In their work to foster diversity, equity and inclusion in their organizations, a growing number of leaders aspire to be more inclusive. And with ample reason, it seems. According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, “inclusive leadership is emerging as a unique and critical capability helping organizations adapt to diverse customers, markets, ideas and talent.” But, one might ask: What traits or skills make for an inclusive leader? In this article entitled The Key to Inclusive Leadership, the authors present the research results that reveal 6 emerging traits and behaviours in inclusive leaders.

6 Signature Traits of an Inclusive Leader

Authors Juliet Bourke and Andrea Titus surveyed over 4,100 employees about inclusion. After reviewing academic literature on leadership, they furthered their research to find common behaviours and traits by developing an assessment tool used on over 450 leaders. The results revealed 6 dominant traits in an inclusive leader:

  1. Visible commitment: They articulate an authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.
  2. Humility: They are modest about capabilities, admit mistakes, and create the space for others to contribute.
  3. Awareness of bias: They show awareness of personal blind spots and flaws in the system and work hard to ensure a meritocracy.
  4. Curiosity about others: They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek with empathy to understand those around them.
  5. Cultural intelligence: They are attentive to others’ cultures and adapt as required.
  6. Effective collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

Source: Why Inclusive Leaders Are Good for Organizations, and How to Become One

Cultural intelligence: a foundational link to DEI

Unsurprisingly (to me, anyway), one of these traits is cultural intelligence (CQ). The ability to work, lead, and communicate efficiently in a culturally diverse environment strikes as an essential behaviour for leaders aiming to be – or become – more inclusive. In fact, cultural intelligence is increasingly perceived as a foundational link to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

A white paper recently published by my CQ-Certified colleague Marsha Ramroop, Director of Inclusion and Diversity at the Royal Institute of British Architect, in collaboration with the Cultural Intelligence Center, provides an insightful look at Implementing CQ as an EDI/DEI Solution in Organisations.

A valuable management model

Ramroop’s paper states that CQ provides a « mind model,» a framework to help leaders develop their cultural abilities. The CQ framework is backed by 20 years of academic peer-reviewed research of 220,000+ profiles administered worldwide in 168+ countries. The model sets itself apart from other intercultural approaches available today. Among CQ’s most outstanding values to leadership development is a skills-based approach, allowing for measurement and improvement.

Managing diversity – or managing differences, as we are increasingly referring to as a more appropriate way to address this challenge – is rapidly becoming one of today’s most strategic management capabilities.


Ask us how we can help you develop your cultural intelligence.


Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels




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