Employees sound off on what makes a truly inclusive leader

posted on October 2, 2020

September 27, 2020

By Kim Brimhall, The Fast Company

Since the death of George Floyd in May, dozens of companies such as Apple, Estée Lauder, and Facebook have vowed to increase diversity and inclusion in their workplaces.

The diversity part seems straightforward enough. But what’s meant by inclusion?

As a social work scholar, I study how leaders create socially just, equitable and inclusive workplaces, particularly when they have a diverse workforce. A recent study I conducted with social policy scholar Lawrence Palinkas examined how employees perceive leaders who are inclusive—and those who aren’t.


Companies have long focused on trying to make their workforces more diverse. But research shows that simply enhancing the representation of employees from diverse backgrounds is not enough. To fully tap into the positive outcomes of diversity, organizations need to focus on inclusion.

What does this mean?

For a start, it means ensuring all employees regardless of background feel that they are important and valued members of the team. This improves employee job satisfactiontrustengagementcreativitycommitment, and performance.

Inclusion also enhances employee well-being and can lead workers to perceive fairness in decision-making, such as when colleagues are promoted.

The U.S. Census estimates that within a couple of decades over half of all Americans will be members of a racial or ethnic minority group, which means creating more inclusive workplaces will be vital to keeping their future workforces happy, engaged, and productive.

So we know inclusion is good for employees and workplaces, but what is less well understood is what leaders can do to exhibit inclusiveness—the goal of our study.

To read the full article, click here.