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Empowering Inclusivity in the Workplace

3 vital inclusivity strategies for leaders.

Key points

  • Embracing inclusivity is essential for effective leadership in diverse workplaces.
  • Neglecting inclusivity can lead to a disengaged workforce, high turnover rates, and a toxic culture.
  • Leaders can use the RAR strategy—recognize, acknowledge, and rectify—to address their biases.
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Co-authored by Fanta Sissoko, intern, RC Warner Consulting

Embracing inclusivity is essential for effective leadership in today’s diverse workplaces. Creating an inclusive environment means ensuring everyone feels respected, valued, and able to contribute their best, regardless of their background. This boosts employee satisfaction and productivity, driving innovation and organizational success. On the other hand, neglecting inclusivity can lead to a disengaged workforce, high turnover rates, and a toxic work culture.

Leaders play a significant role in fostering inclusivity within their organizations by shaping the culture and influencing behaviors. In this article, we'll discuss essential strategies for promoting workplace inclusion, aiming to cultivate an environment where every individual feels respected, valued, and empowered to contribute their best.

Actively Listen and Offer Empathy

As a leader, offering empathy through active listening is paramount for creating inclusion. Elena Aguilar, coach and author, emphasizes the importance of "bearing witness" to others' experiences, particularly those with marginalized identities. By practicing active listening, leaders validate employees' emotions and perspectives, fostering a sense of belonging and trust. Research shows that empathy boosts leadership effectiveness by improving communication and relationships. It also promotes well-being and fosters diversity and inclusion for enhanced organizational effectiveness (Zivkovic, 2022). Approaching others with empathy allows leaders to meet employees where they are, providing much-needed support and understanding.

Apply an Open Mind to Diverse Cultural Perspectives

In our diverse society, leaders must embrace multiple perspectives in the workplace while also understanding their own viewpoints in relation to others. When leaders prioritize their cultural perspective as the ultimate reality, they can dismiss or disregard the differences of others, a phenomenon known as ethnocentrism. This approach hampers effective communication and collaboration, hindering the establishment of a truly inclusive work environment.

On the other hand, when a leader embraces cultural diversity and fosters curiosity and appreciation for varied perspectives, others can feel seen and validated in their identity. Experts advocate for leaders to adopt an open mindset that authentically acknowledges and understands cultural distinctions; this is known as an ethnorelative mindset. This approach not only cultivates empathy and inclusivity but also promotes wellness by creating an environment where individuals feel valued and understood. By embracing an open mind to differences, leaders can effectively navigate cultural nuances, center multiple perspectives, and foster belonging.

Challenge Biases

Bias is a natural part of being human, influenced by upbringing, cultural background, societal norms, and media. Leaders must challenge and mitigate their own biases using the RAR strategy—recognize, acknowledge, and rectify.

1. Recognize: Recognizing biases is just the first step for leaders. By pausing to acknowledge biases and raising awareness, leaders can embrace humility and become conscious of assumptions before acting on them. Research indicates that identifying and bringing biases into consciousness may help counter their effects (Van Ryn, 2016).

2. Acknowledge: Instead of dismissing, denying, or defending biases, leaders should acknowledge their existence. A simple acknowledgment of bias demonstrates an increasing awareness to prevent future bias incidents and fosters the restoration of rapport. This self-disclosure serves as a healthy model for addressing biases within the workplace.

3. Rectify: Addressing bias involves acknowledging mistakes, taking responsibility, and implementing measures to prevent recurrence. Leaders should reflect on their biased beliefs, deconstruct assumptions, and embrace feedback to foster personal growth and understanding. Engaging with diverse individuals, a practice known as intergroup contact, can help reduce bias. Leaders should actively seek out diverse voices and take concrete actions to mitigate biases in their thoughts, behaviors, and interactions.

Bottom Line

In today's diverse workplaces, fostering inclusivity is a key responsibility for leaders. By prioritizing active listening and empathy, embracing diverse cultural perspectives, and challenging biases, leaders can cultivate an environment where every individual feels respected, valued, and included. By embracing accountability and validation and taking action to rectify biases, leaders can create a workplace culture centered on wellness, inclusivity, and genuine connection. Through these intentional efforts, workplaces can become environments where diversity is celebrated and everyone can thrive.

© 2024 Ryan C. Warner, Ph.D.


Aguilar, E. (2020). Coaching for Equity: Conversations That Change Practice. Wiley.

Gonzalez, C. M., Walker, S. A., Rodriguez, N., Karp, E., & Marantz, P. R. (2020). It Can Be Done! A Skills-Based Elective in Implicit Bias Recognition and Management for Preclinical Medical Students. Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 95(12S Addressing Harmful Bias and Eliminating Discrimination in Health Professions Learning Environments), S150–S155.

Van Ryn, M. (2016). Avoiding unintended bias: strategies for providing more equitable health care. Minnesota medicine, 99(2), 40.

Zivkovic, S. (2022). Empathy In Leadership: How It Enhances Effectiveness. Varazdin: Varazdin Development and Entrepreneurship Agency (VADEA). Retrieved from

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