Leaders’ Reflection on Inclusive Leadership A qualitative study on perspectives of leaders on inclusive leadership behaviours

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The concept of inclusion has been gaining attention in recent years and is seen as the follow up approach after obtaining diversity within an organisation. With leaders being of great importance of passing on the organisational message, inclusive leadership has been identified as an important step to create and foster an inclusive environment (Randel et al., 2018). Literature on the perceptions of leaders on the topic of inclusive leadership is scarce. In order for leaders to become inclusive, self-awareness and reflection are seen as crucial for leadership success and is proven to increase leaders’ competence. However, self-reflection on inclusive leadership is not previously addressed in literature. The topic has gained attention from both academic and corporate perspective, with organisations aiming to implement inclusive leadership as a next step after obtaining a diverse workforce. This aim of this study is to contribute to the development of the field of D&I, particularly on the topic of reflection and inclusive leadership, by providing insights into how leaders can reflect on their inclusive leadership behaviours. Additionally, the aim is to provide insight into the organisation’s current state of inclusive leadership and give recommendations accordingly. The research question answered in this study is “How do leaders reflect on their inclusive leadership behaviours?”. A social constructivist approach was taken on to perform a qualitative study. Twenty-seven leaders of a large telecommunications organisation in the Netherlands were interviewed and asked how they view organisational practices on inclusion, how they give meaning to inclusion and inclusive leadership behaviours and characteristics and how they reflect on their own behaviour. The findings of this study suggest that leaders vary in their level of pro-diversity beliefs and level of reflection. Some leaders fail to see inclusion as a next step of diversity and do not recognise that equal treatment does not correspond to fair treatment. However, most leaders spoken to are positive about D&I initiatives and are motivated to push the message onwards. There seems to be discrepancy between what leaders say they do and what actions they undertake to actually ensure said practices. Some leaders do show examples of reflection on their behaviours. Recommended is to involve leaders actively in the D&I activities and initiatives in the organisation and to create active talk on inclusion in all levels of the organisation. Leaders should be provided with education to gain knowledge of D&I and inclusive leadership and to be supported in enacting inclusive leadership by providing tools and guidance. Additionally, leaders should be held accountable and inclusive leadership should be set as the new standard.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen