8 Behaviours to Contribute to High Performance and Practise Inclusivity in Leadership

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 28 July 2022
Inclusive leadership is not a destination. It’s a journey that requires humility, curiosity and courage

- Thais Compoint

This quote is something that resonates with me. When I was carrying out my research as part of my MSc in Organisational Psychology, one of the themes that came out of my work was that Diversity & Inclusion are often seen as a destination – something that can be “fixed” once and for all. The deployment of DE&I (DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION) strategies, whilst well-intended, often becomes a box-ticking exercise and senior leaders end up focusing on simply meeting targets - which are sometimes associated with their bonus.  


But what is it that we are trying to fix? In my research, diversity is constructed as happening outside of and in relation to the dominant group. That is being “different” from the dominant group is associated with “being deficient”. For example, we often refer to women as “lacking” the right skills or the confidence to pursue more senior roles. By doing that, we easily forget the wider socio-structural forces at play that are deeply rooted in history. 


And with a focus on this “deficiency rhetoric”, well-intended empowering strategies are deployed at an individual level to “correct” what is missing – i.e., “equipping” individuals with the “right” tools. From this conceptualisation of the workforce, inclusion is only made possible if individuals conform to the ideology of the ideal worker and engage in behaviours expected by the norm to become successful.  


So how do we ensure, as an organisation and as leaders, that individuals do not downplay or conceal aspects of their identity, experience, values, and culture, to fit in? How can we drive an inclusive culture? 

How to drive high-performance through inclusive leadership 

In their culmination of over 20 years of research, Miller and Katz, in the ‘The Inclusion Breakthrough’,  defined inclusivity as: “a sense of belonging; feeling respected, valued and seen for who we are as individuals; and a level of supportive energy and commitment from leaders, colleagues, and others so that we – individually and collectively – can do our best work”. 


This is often the case when we talk about inclusivity. We talk about employees bringing their whole selves to work - but what does this mean in practice? To answer this, we need to look at culture which itself is driven by behaviours. When it comes to our leaders, what behaviours are we valuing and rewarding to drive high-performance? Which leadership behaviours do we need to foster, to drive an inclusive culture? 


Let’s imagine a leader who worked on a project that allowed the company to win an important tender. They stayed late every evening and started early each morning, often responding to emails and answering calls on weekends.  


In turn, the organisation celebrated their success by acknowledging all their demanding work and all the extra hours they put in. If this sounds familiar, what message does this send to your leaders and to your employees? Celebrating success in this way shapes a strong narrative and an expectation of the type of worker that will succeed in your organisation; and more importantly the type of worker who cannot. For some, working all those extra hours is just not possible – your part-time employees, those who have caring responsibilities, and those who wish to maintain a work-life balance –not to mention treading the tricky terrain of encouraging over-work often leads to burnout.  


How inclusive and equitable is this message, if we are defining high-performance behaviours that are not accessible to everyone? 


Instead, there should be a focus on celebrating behaviours such as collaborating with colleagues or developing a trustworthy relationship with the client – behaviours that have contributed to this success AND that drive an inclusive culture and inclusive leadership.  


Luckily, there are other ways to defining (and celebrating!) high-performance leadership behaviours for your organisation and your leaders. A notable example of that could be seen through the work Hanover did with the Dudley Building Society, which resulted in their leaders strengthening their self-awareness and impact; something they continue to develop which is a credit to their commitment. 


Once you have defined those behaviours, the next step is for your leaders to develop self-awareness and acknowledge the existence of their own bias as well as the inherent biases of the wider socio-cultural environment in which they lead.  

Through sessions focused on inclusive leadership such as Hanover's 1:1 coaching, you can support leaders to develop inclusive behaviours such as: 

  1. Being intentional about championing everyone within the workplace 

  1. Ensuring every voice is heard, regardless of their own biases, and wants to be heard without fear of repercussions 

  1. Building authentic relationships 

  1. Taking steps to recognise employee efforts 

  1. Implementing inclusive feedback 

  1. Exercising curiosity and empathy with non-judgmental behaviour  

  1. Sharing their own vulnerability with others 

  1. Fostering an environment where taking risks and challenging each other in a respectful and supportive way is valued  

This list is not exhaustive and practicing inclusive leadership is an iterative process. As soon as we think we have “reached the destination,” as leaders and as organisations, we risk becoming complacent – which is the biggest threat to driving an inclusive culture. 

Do you need support defining high-performing leadership behaviours to drive inclusive leadership? Find out more here

Do your leaders need development or coaching to strengthen their inclusive leadership? Feel free to get in touch with us to discuss further.

Get to know our team
by selecting your area of interest: