Inclusive leadership – a new competitive advantage

by Christian Kurmann

A leadership model  for culture change in business that is needed.



Diversity is an attribute of the modern world. We live in an increasingly complex, rapidly changing reality, in which it is difficult to foresee even the nearest future. However, one can notice a constant global trend – rapidly progressing globalization. But how often do we ask ourselves what kind of leader do we want to be ? Because self-empowerment is a personal goal and therefore we look for emotional connections and empowerment in all areas in our life. But why do we ignore it in business ? Fact is our priorities are clearly shifting. Emotional values and the time to think, feel and dream are increasing in importance.

This diversity, manifested in the collision of different cultures and talents, that now can become the greatest asset of any company. But only when employees, teams and leaders jointly cultivate “togetherness” and implement appropriate actions unifying the team, enables more effective leadership skills  and increased efficiency and to facilitate and exchange information to get the problem solved.

As leadership behavior has a powerful influence on the performance of employees and many other stake holders, - negatively  or positively of diverse teams in any organization.

That is why today`s leaders lead with questions, - changing the conversation, inviting the challenges and demonstrating the power humility and self-awareness that is required to be a true leader.

This depends on the mentality and leadership skills, whether one can cultivate and create a secure, save, inspired , serene environment, - where people and teams feel at ease that will become a balanced (harmonious) team. This happens to be the best possible environment to step out of the comfort zone and truly comprehend what is: whether is the problem-solving approach, a team conflict, the understanding of an economical- or a political  view or the need to challenge the value proposition. In brief it is a new competitive advantage for creativity, innovation and the improvement of the company`s value proposition.


Together, not the top-down approach

Today it is scientifically well proven, that economically based decisions not solely are driven by one`s own need, - but by the thought and need for fairness and reciprocity. This means that far more people are inspired by fairness and “we” and instead of “I”, - because it gives us a feeling of comfort and belonging. This means that today’s homo economicus is not necessarily driven solely by rationality. It is fairness, generosity, trust as well as the compliance of norms that is part of our biological outfits, - that is part of being. It is the one and only natural inclination that is to co-operate together.

This is how the new leadership concept can be summarized. The traditional model based on unification of the needs of employees and striving for short-term profit maximization, becomes more and more questionable and is becoming less and less effective in the dynamic, of an heterogeneous environment in any global companies. Today, the way we do business, requests to re-think leadership, because its problems are more complex. This requires a much deeper and more profound comprehension of the problem, -  no longer making decisions based on assumption. In other words, a developing culture agility that starts with an open mind attitude, which leads to self-awareness, knowledge, talents, aptitude, skills. This require to be courageous, clearer, compassionate and far more consciousness about oneself and others. When I used to say “inward-resilience” to CEOs and senior executive, they were smiling and responded. Tangibles and hard fact! But today, all is changing, because soft-values drive hard results. Anything that changes your moral values to the better, - changes your behavior for the better.  And this is a grand competitive advantage not for one, - but for all That is why it is worth challenging the narratives of today’s traditional old-school leadership.

Today`s self-awareness is one of these big leadership abilities, - no one can afford to ignore.  My observation is that less than half of modern CEOs and their managers meet these requirements and can truly be considered leaders. 


An inclusive leader

Managers are facing new challenges and therefore need to learn to understand and implement their roles differently. One of them is to let go  and trust oneself and others. Because the old model of authoritarian control has ceased to be relevant in the world of constant change.

Contemporary leaders enter unknown territories daily, make quick decisions, and face unexpected situations. Most of them admit that they feel overwhelmed by the pace of change and the complexity of the processes they need to manage. Continuous stress in which they work causes increased anxiety, decreased productivity.

True: the world is becoming more and more complex. But the inclusive leadership  model works in this unstable reality because it is based on invariably up-to-date, universal values.

In the age of globalization, leaders have a new role to play. By actively engaging in team and company-wide measures they should focus on maximizing human potential, developing individual capabilities, and creating a secure, save, serene and inspired working environment where  employees feel at ease. How to achieve this? First of all, it is about empathy. This feature, usually not identified with leadership, is a key characteristic of an inclusive leader.

Empathy is the source of tolerance, the acceptance of diversity, and the ability to see another’s point of view. An empathic leader can build a sense of bonding and belonging in a very diverse team. A well-integrated group has no problems with mutual understanding and communication, which is the basis for successful cooperation.

This balance comes from the combination of two different aspects of leadership. A good manager sees value in the uniqueness of individual team members, harnessing their unique strengths and allowing individuals to stand out in the crowd. On the other hand, he also draws attention to fulfilling one of the most important human needs – a sense of bonding and belonging as well as acceptance, which builds a good team.

He does not manage a homogeneous team from the top, but contributes to the company’s success together with his employees, based on mutual respect, openness to other cultures, humility and a willingness to cooperate. Before he succeeds, he must overcome his own fears and inhibitions. If he does not have sufficient self-awareness and inner acceptance, he will not find the courage to change himself, and therefore, will not be able to inspire others that they see a need to  change themselves for the better.


Why is the “inclusive leadership” model effective?

By introducing this leadership model to any company, we realize a natural need for people to interact, share knowledge and skills. It's nothing more than a return to our instinctive herd impulses – protecting others, defending against the unknown and common problem solving.

Based on my observations, the implementation of an inclusive leadership model significantly increases employee efficiency and productivity and, above all, builds company loyalty. A loyal employee is more motivated, shows commitment and creativity, and is a better problem-solver because he better understands the real problem. For example when we see a “problem”; whether cost reduction, tea, conflict, or whatever, we then say: “We have got to solve that problem immediately. But often, we are constantly producing that sort of problem, - by the way we go without thought. Instead  to look at it differently. Outwardly that is way beyond thinking, driven by  intuition and instincts.

Research also indicates that the empathetic and intuitive style of leadership  raises positive reactions of shareholders and customers, improving the perception of the company on the market. All in all, inclusive leadership, is a leadership model that is emphasizing on: A mindset that of the world that is not limited to thought and the understanding to share it and to bring people together to create a social balance. Because in today`s world we need “clarity” why we are doing things. If we don`t know, we won`t comprehend why we do things the way we do it. That is why people don`t buy “what” you do, - they buy it “why” you do it and good employees want to joining any company that knows what sort of deeper meaning and purposes – other than profit maximization is driving them !

That is why by the end of the day, the most effective leaders are self-aware of themselves not by their actions and options of others, - but become someone they truly are. This means, they know themselves very well and study themselves through others around them. It is self-awareness that solely gives us the capacity to learn how to learn differently that keeps evolving others and set them apart from the rest that will turn into a grand competitive advantage for any company.


Edvinas Grisinas