Leadership. Whether it is perceived as good or bad (and seldom as mediocre) this process is quite often unacknowledged. Yet, studying and understanding leadership is perhaps one of the most “burning” themes in organizations today. So why is that individuals spend so much time on trying to define an “ideal” leading style while your colleagues are likely to fall under the outcome bias (judging a past decision by its outcome, instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made)? Well, I cannot provide you with an answer as I am guilty of being one of those common enthusiasts chasing idealism. So instead, let me tell you a bit about an “idealistic” leadership style tied to inclusiveness.
Leadership can be defined as the process of providing assistance and guidance to employees’ tasks or a group’s functions, through direct or indirect influence on their behavior. In most cases, it is an essential tool, to the functioning of organizations within every society. In more recent years, studying leadership success promotes a more social identity focused realm, suggesting that above all, a successful leader must demonstrate a shared sense of social identity with those they want to influence (Haslam, Eggins, Reynolds, 2003).
With today’s workforce gradually becoming more culturally diverse, inclusion has taken a front-line position as a fundamental part of leadership. In a leadership setting, inclusion is a term used to refer to an individual’s affinity to think of the self in association with a certain group, and in turn perceive the group’s characteristics applicable to the self. Inclusive leadership revolves around doing things with people, rather than to people. Again, demonstrating the idea of inclusion. It seems that this particular style of leadership is of great interest to anyone looking to realize themselves as a leader.
Taking into account inclusion as the underlying concept, inclusive leadership style can be generalized as those leaders who exhibit openness, accessibility, and availability in their interactions with employees. It is interesting that, this particular style distinguishes itself from other by including an active role of the employee in constructing the leadership-employee relationship. It provides an atmosphere that promotes fairness of input and output to all. We can agree that leader inclusiveness, tends to focus on both parties only to further contribute to a positive effect on the employee’s well-being.
As inclusive leaders tempt and appreciate employee’s input, employees, on their part, develop a sense of trust, empowerment and fairness, and may further perceive the organization as a social entity expressing genuine appreciation for their opinion. Inclusive leadership can be said to be a reciprocal process, with leaders taking into account employees’ needs, employees perceive their leaders as available and supportive and in turn take into account leaders’ needs. Perceived psychological safety is developed through leader’s genuine inclusion, support and concern. These insights suggest that inclusive leadership may have a much deeper stance in benefiting employees and extend into their perception of the organization as a whole.
So, we see identity being related to leadership, but what exactly do we mean? First, identity is how people define themselves in relation to others and within the context in which they find themselves (Adams et al., 2016). The rather complex concept of identity is primarily social in nature. Through self-identification, individuals are able to locate themselves in the social environment and develop a sense of belongingness to a particular group. In an organizational context, identity has been taken through several complex classifications. A more recent one being organizational identification; an employee identifying with the organizational entity and sharing characteristics of the organization’s members. For instance, an employee will assume the organization’s successes and failures as one’s own. This can mean that identification with the organization enables employees to internalize organizational values and beliefs, as well as, feel loyalty, solidarity and commitment towards the organization.
Is there more to leadership than managing and giving orders? Do interpersonal relationships affect the way individuals identify with an organization? It seems that, inclusive leaders, who perform supportive behaviors, may meet employees’ organizational needs for approval and membership. In turn, this could lead to increased organizational identification among those employees. For instance, providing employees with an opportunity to partake in decision making, may serve as a motivating power to the emergence of employees’ organizational identification and sense of belonging. This assures the idea that when employees have a positive relationship with management, they exhibit a higher level of organizational commitment. Intuitively, whether you want to lead or be led, including your interlocuters in an upcoming decision will most likely benefit you in all the right ways. But remember, like almost anything else, leadership is not a “one size fits all” concept. As with most cases, the art of balancing a scale should be implied. On the one side of the scale we have the involvement and task delegation to the experts and on the other side of the scale are the topics reserved for the leader to take on his own as a lead.