The role of leadership in creating a diversity friendly workforce
A simple definition of leadership is ‘a leader is a person that people want to follow’.
When a leader demonstrates the behaviours of inclusion and are welcoming and generous in terms of diversity, then it’s far more likely that the people around them will do the same.
Learn more about how leaders can foster a diversity friendly workplace.
How leader behaviours are central to diversity and inclusion
Watch the video to understand the importance of leadership in creating a diversity-friendly workplace, and the key behaviours that good leaders need to develop to minimise intolerance and prejudice.
Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number five in our six-video sequence on creating a highly inclusive workforce.
So far, we’ve talked to you about a theory of what makes people prejudiced.
We’ve given you a bunch of research findings about what makes people tolerant and intolerant.
So that’s videos two, three, and four. And in this one, we’ll be talking about leadership and his role in creating a workforce rich in tolerance and inclusion.
Nature of leadership
But firstly, let’s talk a little bit about the nature of leadership.
Leadership is a characteristic where people want to follow a particular person.
In fact, that’s a simple definition of leadership.
A leader is a person that people want to follow.
Now, organisational psychology has undertaken a bunch of research about what causes people to want to follow other people.
And one of the characteristics that people look for from their leaders is a sense of positivity which gives rise to a thing called engagement.
Engagement is where people have a positive attitude to their work.
By the way, engagement just doesn’t apply to work, I mean, social groups, when people are engaged to the nature of that group, they will feel included and they will also be energetic and committed to whatever that group is about.
So engagement is a very strong characteristics.
Engagement is a much more powerful characteristic for instance, than something like job satisfaction.
People can be highly satisfied at their job but not very productive.
Whereas when people are high in engagement, it’s almost always coupled with high levels of productivity.
But in addition to that, it’s coupled with high levels of wellbeing for individuals.
So it’s a really positive thing for both the individual and for the organisation.
Now, if you want people to be interested in inclusion, you have to engage them in that process.
And so let’s talk about the types of leader behaviours that cause high level of engagement for anything.
It could be work. But in this case, it’s applied to the idea of inclusion.
Leadership behaviours that cause engagement
This is the results of a study that was undertaken by SACS in partnership with Deakin University (refer to video).
And we measured leader behaviours.
We measured, in fact, a whole bunch of leader behaviours but 10 of them turned out to be extremely strong in their relationship with the engagement of the staff member who was involved. 2,700 people odd completed this survey and we measured leader behaviours and we measured their levels of engagement.
What we discovered this really just means that the whole thing was statistically significant and worked from a mathematical point of view (refer to video).
There were 10 leader behaviours which proved to be important, helping people to learn being supportive, fostering teamwork, which is where you are causing people to work together rather than individualistically.
Empowering people in order to giving them the opportunity to get involved in making decisions rather than just accepting orders handed down from on high and then creating clarity about performance standards, effective management of under performance.
So that’s about accountability for performance.
This one is about ensuring that people know what standards are required.
And this one is about doing something if those standards aren’t reached.
And then the same thing for behaviours, creating clarity about appropriate behaviours, effective management of behaviours is where you intervene as a leader if the behaviours are unachieved. So this is kind of about the love of leadership.
This is about the accountability of leadership.
And the final two are also more about the nature of positive relationships rather than accountability.
So celebrating success and being optimistic and positive.
So in effect, there are 10 leadership behaviours that are really important. And in fact, we measure these 10 leadership behaviours for a whole range of clients.
So when people score highly on these 10 leadership behaviours, what it tends to mean is that the work group that they lead is a highly engaged work group.
But what about inclusion? Well, in fact, exactly the same thing applies.
These 10 behaviours can be very powerful when it comes to inclusion.
Of these 10 behaviours, there’s a subset of four which proved to be the most important. And that’s what these beta weights mean.
These beta weights are measures of the strength of relationship between these things and engagement.
In other words, the ones with the highest beta weights are the ones that are the most powerful in predicting engagement.
And four of them come out as being particularly powerful.
First one is about empowering people.
If you want people to be engaged in inclusion, I think the key message here is that you just don’t tell them what to do, you get them actively involved in creating a more engaging, a more inclusive, a more welcoming workplace.
And we’ll talk about some techniques of doing this.
We mentioned in the next couple of slides (refer to video), this idea of what’s called facilitative leadership where leaders act as facilitators rather than bosses.
So what that might look like in terms of inclusion is that it might be something along the lines of getting the group to set goals for inclusion, which you as a leader back, and then coming up with ideas about how to achieve those kinds of inclusion.
And then empowering members of the staff.
In other words, you don’t have to take the weight of this on your own shoulders entirely, asking people from within the staff to lead initiatives, to cause the work group to be more engaging and inclusive.
Now, your job as leader then is to support that, sponsor that, and give guidance and help when necessary.
That’s how you empower people in respective inclusion.
The second component is about being optimistic and positive.
And I think the key component there from an inclusion point of view is get people to understand, look, inclusion’s a good thing.
If we make this workplace more inclusive, then it will be more productive.
It will be more successful. It will be happier.
There will be higher levels of engagement.
All of which, by the way, our research findings.
So it’s a matter of being optimistic and positive in your personal demeanour.
Then being supportive.
Now, if a leader models the behaviours of inclusion him or herself, then it is far more likely that the staff are going to do this.
So being supportive of people from different backgrounds and of course everybody else as well, but creating a supportive, welcoming environment, which is tolerant of any diversity, any difference, that is the way that you can be most supportive in such a way that it increases the inclusivity of your workplace.
By the way, deviance is good.
One of the things that we know is that if you want change, change only ever comes from a thing called positive deviance.
In other words, deviance is where we do things that’s different or we are different from what we’ve had in the past.
Positive deviance is where people will do things differently, but they actually make things better.
So deviance is an absolutely crucial recipe for change or an a crucial ingredient of change.
Helping people to learn
And the final component here is about helping people to learn.
If you want people to be highly engaged in inclusiveness, then it makes sense to run programs or do activities where let’s say people from different backgrounds help people to understand what the orientation is of this background.
So if it’s an ethnic background, it might be something to do with their cultures or their food or whatever.
If it’s a something to do with lifestyle, it might be about helping people to understand how that lifestyle operates, helping people to understand where this group is in the community and how they’re contributing to the community.
Those kinds of things help learning.
So learning, supportiveness, engagement, all comes together to create a more inclusive workplace.
And certainly, empowerment should be a key part of that.
There are three points on a continuum of leadership.
At one end, you have I am the boss.
At the other end, I am not the boss, I’m going to act as a facilitator.
In fact, it’s a way of re-looking at the role of leadership, which we sometimes tend to refer to as unbossing.
The idea is good leadership is not about being the boss anymore.
And in fact, I wonder if it ever was, but good leadership is not about being the boss, good leadership is about making stuff happen through other people.
And sometimes the best way of doing that is not to be the boss, it’s to be a facilitator.
Somebody who facilitates it happening.
Now, we’ve known for decades that the most successful leaders use a technique called leverage, where they don’t try to do more stuff themselves, they try to leverage the efforts of multiple other people, because as the old saying goes, if I work 24 hours a day versus causing the people who report to me to be 10% more productive.
Well, clearly option B is far more productive than option A.
Particularly, if you’re talking about teams of 10, 15, 16, 20, 30, 40 people.
The more leverage you can get, the better the productivity.
Now, this also is a key aspect of engagement, because where you have high levels of engagement, you have higher levels of leverage, because productivity increases as engagement increases.
Option one, top-down leadership. Option two is consultation where the leader goes and asks people’s opinion but then still makes the decisions. And option three is facilitation where the leader will probably split these groups and/or these individuals into smaller groups.
Like let’s say a group of two and a group of three.
By the way, I’ve run this with up to 200 people with real success.
There’s no reason that you can’t do it with larger groups but let’s say this is a small group.
You split them into two groups. Let’s say a group of three and a group of two.
Now, why would you do that? Well, the answer is, if you split groups into small groups, say, you’ve got 20 people and you create five groups of four or four groups of five, you get greater diversity of opinion in each of those smaller groups.
But as well as that, you end up with the people who are not so confident to speak out in front of the larger group, they are far more confident to speak out in front of a smaller group, so that will feel more included in the process.
They will feel that they have been heard.
In addition to that, if you then run a process whether you say when each group comes back, they should in effect, nominate somebody to speak on behalf of the group, the people who are shy and don’t like to speak in front of a larger group get to hear their words voiced by a trusted colleague.
So that’s a technique which is often used in facilitation, and it’s a very powerful technique, creates diversity, but it also creates inclusion and a sense of engagement in what’s going on.
Most leaders in the Western world oscillate between being the boss and asking people’s opinion and making their own mind up.
This is a form of facilitative leadership, which is also called facilitative democracy where the leader develops the skills of causing the group to solve the problem or pursue the opportunity, and that is where the highest levels of engagement take place.
So any leader, there are times they will need to say, you must do this.
There will be times where they’ll ask people’s opinion and then make up their own mind.
But there also should be the skill set of facilitating a solution.
Now, you can imagine how this might work in this facilitative leadership example. We want to make this a more inclusive workplace. Let’s set some goals. I’m not going to set the goals, I’m going to facilitate a process where you as groups of individuals come together under my guidance, under my facilitation to come up with the goals.
Okay, then let’s make some plans about how to pursue that.
So that’s a way of making inclusion really practical and causing a kind of a teamwork orientation to bring about practical solutions for making your workplace as inclusive as it can possibly be.
Employees really live in four worlds
Now, this slide (refer to video) shows that this varies enormously from team to team.
So Cotton, Hart back in 2011 published this article and they were saying that employees really live in four worlds.
The world of their job, where they’re immersed in their job, their team, their leader, and then the organisation. 80% of people’s wellbeing, and this is supported by other researchers, comes from the immediate team to which they belong. And this arrow here talks about proximal versus distal.
Proximal means things that are close to me.
Distal means things that are far away from me.
The team, my job, and my immediate leader are close to me.
The organisation for many people is just a concept.
That’s why inclusiveness can vary enormously from one work group to another, but it’s also why sometimes leaders underestimate their own power.
You know this is an organisation that’s not very good at this stuff. So we just have to live with that.
Well, no. Leaders can have a massive impact on this by exercising their own facilitative leadership capability to cause people to be more effective in that respect.
Of course, if the organisation supports it so much the better, but leaders at a local level often vastly underestimate their own importance in causing wellbeing and productivity in their own teams.
This diagram (refer to video) talks about contagious behaviours and this is what’s called a path analysis, a structural equation model is the technical name for it.
But in effect, what happened here is that we measured 2,700 people and we measured their perception of their own level of engagement.
So we used an internationally accepted tool to measure their levels of engagement.
Then we measured the leadership behaviours that they experience.
And then we measured the colleague behaviours that they experienced. And the benefit of this kind of path analysis is that you can take multiple things and mathematically aggregate them.
So leader behaviours, there were many of these, there are 10 as you saw in the last couple of slides, and the colleague behaviours, there was a bunch of those, but this technique allows you to mathematically aggregate them.
And what this shows you is that there’s a very strong path.
So a correlation of 0.8 between leader behaviours and colleague behaviours.
In other words, the leader causes the behaviours in the colleagues, and it’s really the colleague behaviours that cause the levels of engagement of each individual.
The concept here is that if I’m a leader, I behave in a certain way. And my behaviour cascades down into all of my team, I’ve got 20 people reporting to me.
They all change their behaviours slightly or perhaps even markedly by virtue of observing me.
And people don’t do this consciously.
We have these things in our brain called mirror cells that cause us to do this, to mimic if you want to put it that way, the behaviours, particularly of people that we consider to be leaders.
So a leader comes in and starts behaving well, you will find an uplift in the behaviours of the colleagues.
A leader comes in and starts behaving poorly and you’ll find a decline in the behaviours of the colleagues.
But what that does then is that that creates an environment in which people can be highly engaged.
So the key message here is that if I am a leader and I demonstrate the behaviours of welcoming, of inclusion, of generosity in terms of understanding diversity, then it’s far more likely that the people around me will do that.
So that leads us to our final video in this sequence.
So we’ve talked to you about some theory and some research findings about what causes people to be tolerant and intolerance.
And we’ve just told you some ideas for increasing tolerance and inclusion through your own leadership capability.
The final video will be giving you some evidence-based techniques, interventions if you want to put it that way, to make your team and organisation more tolerant and inclusive.
So thanks for joining us on the journey so far.
Join us for video number six where we’ll give you some really practical techniques about how to optimise inclusion in your work group.
Watch the next video in this series to find out more about creating a diversity friendly workforce:
And watch the previous video here:
And if you’d like some help to ensure your next hire is tolerant, contact us about our Psychometric Assessments.