Monday, June 27, 2016

Inclusive Leadership Theory

Ochieng Ogodo

Many development experts and theorists have argued that leadership is necessary for developmental-transformations such as in management of businesses, organisational change and talent management for the general good and fulfilment of the aspirations of those involved. Many theorists of leadership have attempted to give meaning to what trustworthy leadership is supposed to be or stands for.
Experts and various models have looked at leadership from different lenses. The varied definitions and models include firm personality, one with the art and skills of guiding, giving direction, controlling, managing or supervising a group of people or an organisation.
They have argued that any group of people, organisation or society has certain defined or desired ends they would like to achieve. But because of the multiplicity of ideas, wants and needs that differ with each and every individual, having leadership that will enable the channelling of energies and resources available to achieve the good for the majority if not all is an important necessary component; that structures must be put in place to guide the roadmap to achieving the ultimate and it is for that which leadership becomes a need or necessity. 
Whereas this theory is centred on the personality of a leader, it is also about how vital for one leading people to involve them in identifying their needs, thinking through how they can be solved, drawing the roadmap for achieving them and participatory implementation processes that improve or leads to change in their livelihoods and consequently to their ultimate goal in life, happiness.
Leading entails a lot; appeal to your audience through language, style of communication, and credibility. It needs the understanding of how much the very definitions of inclusion vary from one culture to culture.  For instance, are there gender differences in what makes the led or employees feel included/excluded? What leadership qualities and behaviours can promote inclusion? And how much do these behaviours need to be adapted for different needs and demands of the people within the context of leadership?
The more people feel included, the more innovative they become in seeking to achieve the ultimate goal(s). The more included people feel, the more they engage in team behaviours —rising above and beyond the ‘individual desires’ to help other members and meet and work as a group and meeting the overarching objectives to delivering happiness.  Perceiving similarities with the led engenders uniqueness and a feeling of belongingness while perceiving differences can lead to feelings of exclusion or that of outsiders and insiders.
Focusing on developing inclusive leadership must surely deliver better individual and organisational outcomes than those that have been achieved via the focus specifically on unconscious bias alone. The findings go to the core dynamic of a 'contributing-belonging' cycle. The more people feel they belong, the more they want to contribute. That's the virtuous action spiral. However, the less the people feel they belong, the less inclined they will to contribute, and that is the vicious spiral in inaction. The concept is simple but powerful and leadership that doesn’t have the best people skills to this concept of belonging model may work against the desired outcomes. Therefore, it is important that leaders develop the skills to overcome implicit biases. Engendering a sense of inclusion make people want to feel valued for the identities, perspectives and talents that make them unique too. Inclusive leadership have to balance these two needs; the needs for uniqueness and belonging.

Leadership Theorems

Leadership theories have been the source of numerous debates and studies. In true life situations and in studies, many have tried to define what makes genuine leaders to stand apart from the mass.  Philosophers, researchers and professors have studied and ultimately published their leadership theories and today there are many theories on leadership.
  The Trait Theory (1930's - 1940's) posits that that people are either born or are made with certain qualities that will make them excel in leadership roles; that certain qualities such as intelligence, sense of responsibility, creativity and other values puts anyone in the realms of a good leader, Matthews, Deary & Whiteman (2003). This theory of leadership focused on analysing mental, physical and social characteristic in order to gain more understanding of what is the characteristic or the combination of characteristics that are common among leaders.
Plato’s ideal for kingship is pegged on four principles: wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. While wisdom is the principle by which one reasons and governs, courage is the principle by which one is valiant. Temperance is then the principle by which one becomes one’s own master and keeps the forces of wisdom and courage in “friendly harmony”. Justice then is the principle that governs the other three principles and keeps them in their proper place, and without which the others are unable to exist, Ethical Leadership (2013).
Transactional theories (1970s) are pigeon-holed by a transaction made between the leader and the followers. The theory, also known as exchange theories of leadership, puts values on a positive and mutually beneficial relationship.
For them to be effective, the leader must find a means to align to adequately reward or punish his follower, for performing leader-assigned task. The transactional theorists believe that humans in general are seeking to maximise pleasurable experiences and to diminish un-pleasurable experiences.

How these theories influence my understanding of leadership.

These theories have evoked deep questions and thoughts inside me why leadership is necessary; why there is need for a leader, whether at family, organisational, societal or national level. In interacting with these theories, among others, I have come to the conclusion that whether in families, businesses, governments, communities, and organisations in general there is need for leadership. Whether you believe that leaders are born, created, or rise to the occasion, there is need for one  who guides or inspires others into action or opinion; one who takes the lead in any enterprise or movement; one who is "followed" if things have to be managed, done in certain order for desired effect and change.
As in Drucker (1985), the lifting of people's vision to a higher sight, the raising of their performance to a higher standard, the building of their personality beyond its normal limitations Leadership is an event.
One who supervises or directs others is crucial. Transformational process that includes strategic planning, setting objectives, managing resources, deploying the human and financial assets needed to achieve objectives, and measuring results, effective utilisation and coordination of resources to achieve defined objectives with maximum efficiency needs somebody in managing people and process.
These theories have taught me that between men and women as well as across geographic regions, the call to action has challenging questions like, “What can be done?” who is taking on this responsibility? Who is already in action?” encourages formal leadership to support inclusion efforts so they can affect critical outcomes. In achieving results it is always easier said than done; mobilising individual people who can take action will make it happen, and even more admirable to feel accountable because maximising pleasurable experiences and diminishing un-pleasurable experiences is mostly an unknown territory.

Principles that ought to guide society in pursuance of a good life for an individual and community

1     .     Making the best out of numbers
Where there is more than one person, inclusive approach will enable fellow colleagues help one another or suggesting new ideas is determined by a great many things. Working groups and personal values are likely to affect behaviours when people feel part and parcel of the process. Equally, if we want to examine how each individual can perform—whether they innovate or engage—inclusivity contributes to that experience.
Inclusion is important in generating and directing complexities in mind; identifying how much each person experience or the extent to which they engage in innovation and synergies that can be driven out of that.

2      .     Belongingness in uniqueness

A sense of belongingness in uniqueness of each individual equals to inclusion. Having individual and team performance is important as it will make people feel included. When people simultaneously feel included, they engender a feeling of belongingness while perceiving differences as leading to feelings of uniqueness, importance and inclusion. Belongingness contributes to people’s perceptions of inclusion. This principle develop a particular form of leadership to meet the challenges of diversity. A model of inclusivity drawing upon individual differences nurtures inclusion. Management becomes an act in diversity. It develops the notion of a "thinking practitioner" engaged in developing "praxis".
This principle following Aristotelian philosophy is related to the idea of pragmatic virtue and is identified as a basis for the construction of a conceptual model of inclusive leadership. It offers, in turn, as a heuristic for use in understanding the systemic and human interaction between structure and agency in actualising diversity in a community.
Finally, it leads to integrative management of a personalised and social approach grounded in a notion of virtuous leadership.

3       .     Thinking leadership, think humility 

How highly humility ranks among people and individuals is a significant factor for harmonious co-existence in a community and leadership.  Humility is one of the most significant indicators, after empowerment, of altruistic leadership. We most readily associate leadership competence with attributes like charisma, self-promotion, speaking up first, and speaking longest.
But these characteristics may not in the actual sense be the all “material” that makes leaders effective in creating inclusive environments. Rather, qualities like humility (the state of not thinking you are better than other people), and self-sacrifice, accommodating others positions and views can go a long way in making leadership more inclusive and effective.
Empowerment, humility, courage, and accountability—key aspects of unselfish leadership—are important to shaping the led/employee perceptions of inclusion. Inclusion can inspire and impact positive change through each decision we make every day. It can make leadership cost-effective and valuable for all parties involved.

Communication as a central factor in inclusive leadership

Communication is a pivotal factor in this theory of inclusive leadership around which things revolve. 
First, it will enable direct identification of the needs, possible opportunities and effective way that can be employed in achieving transformational change for development. Communication will promote intense and systematic awareness and improve delivery of ideas and resources leading in solving the challenges facing the people.
Secondly, it will yield admission of mistakes and learning from criticism and different points of view. Acknowledging and seeking contributions of others to overcome one’s limitations.
Thirdly, communication will lead to courage in which personal interests are set aside to achieve what needs to be done. Acting on convictions and principles even when it requires personal risk-taking.
Fourth, it will promote accountability in direct reports by for performance.  It becomes a huge central factor in searching for happiness in the context of theory of leadership.
Lastly, communication in inclusive leadership will make the community know what is the important about their leader and the need to follow. It allows those led to participate in concrete ways.

Challenges expected in implementing this theory of leadership, and how to overcome them

Like in other transformational theories being put into practices, challenges are expected to occur.
Individual’s beliefs and attitudes could impact significantly on the way they behave. Perceptions of the benefits of any proposed change versus the costs, both practical and financial can be a hindrance.
Some may also find it difficult to accept new guidance if it is in conflict with personal beliefs and attitudes. A person’s belief in their own ability to adopt a new behaviour can also have an impact on whether a change is implemented.
Practical barriers can involve a lack of resources or skilled personnel, or difficulties in establishing service delivery procedures. New equipment might be needed in order to enable new guidance to be followed. In some cases, the need for configuration of services or the infrastructure of a community or organisation may arise to allow for change to happen.
Sustainability can be another difficulty, especially if priorities have shift making it difficult to maintain any changes that have been introduced.
But a leader who believes inclusivity should have communication skills enabling the subjects construct messages and decode messages from each other with ease. This calls for well-structured communication process that fosters openness, effectiveness, efficiency and collectivism right form the onset of a programme.
These includes careful selection of accessible information channel of communication, style, medium and even the sender or the receiver of the messages. Messages need to be clear and precise as much as possible.
Feedback mechanism is key in this theory and that is why it is about inclusivity. A leader should be able to gauge and decipher the level of understanding and the cognitive capability of his/her subjects for further improvements. In most turns, the leaders should involve the ‘We’ rather than ‘I’ or ‘You’ to show that he or she is part of the people faced with the challenge and the need for collectively finding meaningful solutions for the realisation of happiness to the people.
As a leader seeking to employ this theory, divergent thinking method is crucial to generating creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. This will stimulate many possibilities for arriving at solutions to challenges.

Applicability of this theory.
This theory is applicable to, among others, governments, developmental and behavioural change organisations or initiatives aimed at transforming people’s livelihoods. In governance, governments (politicians, technocrats) and empowered citizens are part of important conditions for inclusive development. Citizens' involvement favours the overall acceptance and makes needs identification, thinking through and implementation of projects easy. This could be in the fields of education, health, agriculture, infrastructural development, and sustainable exploitation of the natural resources. If those being led and the ones in leadership are reading from the same script, there are huge chances of diminishing mutual mistrust and unnecessary energy-sapping disagreements. 
For instance, in his research on education and development, Freire (1970) establishes that a number of political and educational plans have failed due their authors (leaders) designing them according to their own personal views of reality, and without taking into account the men and women in situation to whom their programs were presumably directed at.
This theory offers persuasion for leaders, especially political leaders, to engage their subjects; work closely with them and to involve every stakeholder the vision and mission towards achievement of goals that ends up in the happiness of all.
At organisational level, many organisations focus on attracting a diverse group of employees, but then struggle with retaining the right talent. Organisations with a highly diverse workforce needs to pay attention to an inclusive environment to avoid dysfunctionalities that may arise as result having a staff of diverse cultural and skills backgrounds.
This theory values a leader as an important cog in the wheel of driving people-based agenda if he/she is to successfully pursue a path that captures and addresses the priorities of his/her  subjects.

1.     Gerald, M.  Ian, J. D.  Martha C. W. (2003). Personality Traits: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

3.     Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Communication for Social Change: Library of Congress, New Jersey.

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