Learning Inclusive Leadership Skills With a Global MBA

Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords. A growing body of research shows that they are core ingredients for high-performing organizations. To be truly effective, these principles need to be reflected through authentically inclusive leadership as well as hiring practices.

In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, Deloitte Australia’s Juliet Bourke breaks down the findings from her research on inclusive leadership. As you’ll see, she’s taking an active role in shaping how these future-focused principles are taught to the business leaders of tomorrow.

Articulating what diversity and inclusion mean in the workplace context can be challenging. Bourke and her Deloitte colleagues have sought to fill this gap. For their report “The diversity and inclusion revolution: eight powerful truths,” they surveyed over 4,100 employees about inclusion, interviewed leaders rated as highly inclusive, and reviewed academic literature on the subject.

The result is a detailed description of what inclusive leadership is all about. They identified 17 discrete sets of behaviors grouped into six traits:

  • Visible Commitment: Articulated commitment to diversity, challenging the status quo, holding others accountable, and making inclusion a priority.
  • Humility: Modesty about capabilities, the ability to admit mistakes, and creating spaces for everyone to contribute.
  • Awareness of Bias: Awareness of personal biases as well as systemic flaws in society, coupled with a commitment to ensuring meritocracy in the workplace.
  • Curiosity About Others: An open mindset and ability to listen without judgment, along with the empathy and curiosity needed to understand colleagues.
  • Cultural Intelligence: Attentiveness to others’ cultures, including a willingness to adapt when required.
  • Effective Collaboration: Empowering others through attention to diversity of thought, psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

The report goes beyond simply identifying these traits and digs deeper into ways that inclusive leadership can be assessed. It also lays out ways that business leaders can incorporate traits of inclusivity into their own management performance, through habits like deliberately seeking out difference and soliciting feedback through regular check-ins.

What’s the business upside of practicing an inclusive leadership style? According to Bourke and her co-authors, teams with inclusive leaders feel markedly more positive about their performance. They are 17% more likely to report that they’re high-performing, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to report collaboration on the job.

This boost isn’t just psychological, either: a 10% improvement in perceptions of inclusion boosts work attendance by almost 1 day per year per employee.

Bourke’s work on inclusivity doesn’t stop with her research at Deloitte. She’s also an author, having recently written “Which Two Heads Are Better Than One: How diverse teams create breakthrough ideas and make smarter decisions.” She is also helping tomorrow’s business leaders develop these traits through her work on the industry advisory panel for the Macquarie Global MBA degree.

With the help of Bourke’s expertise, this new, 100% online MBA gives future-focused professionals the opportunity to develop skills across six capabilities, including Leading, Strategizing, Analyzing, Influencing, Adapting, and Problem Solving. Students work in diverse, inclusive teams across these areas through online live sessions and group projects. There’s also a special focus on inclusive leadership in the Leading capability.

The Leading capability teaches ways to leverage the talent by optimizing workplace relationships and organizational structures. Like the other capabilities in the Global MBA, this is taught across four themed courses:

  • Know Your People: Personnel management is crucial to success, so students learn a range of concepts, theories, and methodologies to navigate and optimize the work environment.
  • Know Your Organization: In a competitive and complex work environment, it’s critical for leaders to optimize their organizational structure to deliver on strategy while remaining agile.
  • Adapt Your Leadership Style: Practicing authentic and inclusive leadership motivates teams to succeed — and reduces increasingly-prevalent problems like apathy and disengagement.
  • Become a Meaning Maker: Tomorrow’s business leaders need to deliver a vision of the future that conveys meaning and drives positive change within an organization.

Throughout these courses, students develop and practice the skills they need to be effective and inclusive leaders. With the ability to guide diverse teams through today’s complex, fast-changing business world, Global MBA students will “future-proof” their own careers, as well.

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