From tackling bias to developing Inclusive Leaders

Our leaders understand all about bias now – what next?

Being aware of, and managing, your unconscious biases as a leader is clearly critical. But it is just one of nine key behaviours demonstrated by leaders who are genuinely inclusive in their leadership style; and developing that inclusive leadership style is all-important for so many reasons. For example, employees who work with inclusive leaders demonstrate:

  • An 84% increase in motivation
  • An 81% increase in productivity
  • Significant increases in employee engagement
  • Lower levels of turnover

But what does inclusive leadership mean in reality? That was exactly the question that the diversity team at Pearn Kandola set out to answer in our recently completed, extensive research to identify the competencies and behaviours that delineate inclusive leaders from more exclusive, bias-prone leaders. Our research identified that there were three distinct competencies. These are:


Inclusive leaders proactively create a culture in which people feel they are safe to speak up, where team members work for one another and where each team member feels they have something valuable to contribute to the team.


Inclusive leaders invest time in getting to know each team member and actively valuing their individual contributions. They create wide, diverse networks, and help their team members to do the same.


Inclusive leaders have a clear understanding of their own unconscious biases and take action to ensure these are not influencing the decisions they make. Inclusive leaders also take time to make decisions about people, avoiding acting on gut instinct or intuition.

These three competencies are made up of nine specific behaviours identified by our research as being key to increasing levels of inclusion in the workplace. These include:

Psychological Safety – Leaders who are create psychologically safe environments develop a culture where their team members feel it is safe to speak up. Less inclusive leaders create a situation around them where people feel it is “more than their job’s worth” to stand out.

Servant Behaviour – Inclusive leaders have been found to encourage mutual support within the team, rather than a situation where team members are motivated to work for their own achievement.

Team Cohesion – Higher levels of inclusion are found in teams where the leader has actively built a sense of team, helping members to trust one another.

Openness – A leader’s preference for considering or avoiding unusual options, as opposed to relying on tried-and-tested courses.

How can we use these competencies?

We have developed this research into two practical solutions for our clients.

Firstly, we have developed a three-part programme that is designed to develop their current understanding of diversity and bias into clear, sustainable leadership behaviours that they can embed into their ongoing work. The programme consists of three key activities:

Part 1 is an initial workshop which has been designed to give leaders:

  • Individual feedback on the extent to which they are inclusive in their leadership style – and the ways in which they are exclusive
  • A practical understanding of the inclusive leader competencies
  • An opportunity to develop a serious and practical action plan to develop their skills as inclusive leaders.


Part 2 of this programme sees these leaders taking their action plan and putting it in place in their real-life working environment. We recommend a period of approximately 10-12 weeks following the initial workshop to allow leaders to genuinely embed their planned behaviour change, to see what works, and what doesn’t as they strive to enhance their inclusive leadership style.

Part 3 is a follow-up session which can either be delivered face-to-face, internally, or remotely. This follow-up session is designed to help leaders evaluate the impact of their actions they have taken over the past few weeks, to identify ways in which they can integrate the new successful inclusive leadership behaviours into their day-to-day business activities, and to identify ways in which they can involve others around them in growing a more inclusive culture.

This longitudinal approach has been found by an independent evaluation conducted by the Institute of Work Psychology to have some dramatic results. For example, not only do direct reports and team members make significantly higher ratings of how included they feel at work than do their cohorts in business units who have not been through the programme. Critically however, employees two levels below the participating leader also report significant differences in levels of inclusion. These findings suggest that the programme is effective in translating the theoretical understanding of bias and the inclusive leadership competencies into tangible and sustainable actions that last beyond time in the training room.

The second solution we have developed for our clients is the Pearn Kandola Inclusive Leader Report. This report is comprised of two core elements:

  1. 360° feedback – collected confidentially through an online system, with feedback from peers and team members about the extent to which the individual leader demonstrates inclusive leadership in line with the above three competencies.
  2. A Personality Test – which provides feedback concerning an individual’s decision-making style, the approach to building relationships at work and the culture they create around them, all of which have been found to influence the likelihood that they will make a biased decision.


The surveys are distributed and completed online, making them very efficient and user friendly. All participants receive their own individual report, outlining their results and recommendations for how they can tackle their biases, as well as demonstrate higher levels of inclusion in the workplace. We also provide grouped overall data for the organisation, which helps to flag areas of strength as well as critical factors in reducing the impact of unconscious bias in the workplace.

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