If we want to survive, we must become “inclusive”: there is just no other way.
Leadership behaviour has always had a powerful influence on the performance of teams, whether positive or negative, and the progression of diverse groups within an organisation.
In modern society, it is assumed that material and tangible values are rooted in human nature and therefore practically invariable. The same approach is believed by experts, scientists and "smart-alecks”, that the majority of people are naturally lazy and passive and would hardly work if material incentives were negligible, or if man were not driven by hunger and fear. Interestingly, this strong dogma is accepted globally because it determines our education and working methods for preparing ourselves for survival in what we call life.
But it is little more than an expression of the desire to prove that the value of our social arrangements can meet the needs of human nature. The truth of the matter is that the existence of material and tangible values, as well as the sense of being within human nature, are biological instincts for self-enhancement that in return enhance the mode of existence of material and tangible values. Today, egoism, laziness and narcissism are the criteria for human inclinations.
It is therefore important to know that we humans have an innate deeply rooted desire for being. We can express our ability to do activities by being at any time, although this requires self-esteem. When we are satiated with security, safety, inspiration, serenity and calmness, we can cultivate, and outwardly exude, our innermost being. This is an act of inner abundance and satisfaction that cannot be achieved by the accumulation of material or tangible values, as these merely enhance image, reputation, title, position, status quo, beauty and superficiality, delivering only short-term satisfaction which is not purpose-oriented, but requires constant repetition to consume and continue in such a self-centred manner.
The need to integrate and to cooperate inspires all those who, without compensation, act without reward, as it is in their nature to give, to share and to sacrifice: intrinsic human goodness which is ridiculed in our contemporary world. The willingness to involve people manifests in everyone who is really deeply involved in being and in life. But, much to the chagrin of society, parents and superiors, the notion that "having everything" and "achieving everything" is equivalent to a successful life and a successful business comes at a high price, one that cannot be paid overnight.
People increasingly confront senselessness and boredom when driven by endless material and tangible values and monetary incentives, finding this apathy and indifference just as unsustainable as the daily pursuit of selfish motives. Those people search relentlessly for a new lifestyle – one without tangible objective-oriented results – because the effort of striving degenerates into meaninglessness. Many of them are originally among the most sensitive and idealistic of a new generation, but lacking tradition, profundity, maturity, experience, knowledge and global understanding, are desperate and overestimate their own capabilities and possibilities, trapped in narcissistic delusion.
As a result, they rely on violence, authority, power and money to manipulate others into dependence, and often forget that they are actually excluding themselves. These are the grounds for their leadership style, one which aims to exclude and dominate others.
Because these people have lost their ability to love the good in life, and choose instead to dedicate themselves, with grand desire, to sacrifice, they are lost and socially excluded. This self-sacrifice often appears to people as the only true solution for cultivating a passionate desire, demanding recognition and affection from others. This is considered the highest expression of lovability. Ironically, it is precisely those people who actually lack the ability to love. This self-sacrifice and self-destruction result in a lack of understanding of what is and what should be. Innate in the human desire to experience, experiment, and discover a sense of being with others is the existence of every human being, one of the strongest driving forces of human behaviour.
Through this combination of minimal instinctive determination and maximum mental development, we humans have finally managed to destroy the abilities of our original nature and the social environment by incessantly praising and greatly overvaluing the "I" and “me”, using “self” as a "brand" to achieve even more.
But it is scientifically proven that economically-based decisions are not only driven by one’s own need, but by the need for fairness and reciprocity. This means that far more people are genuinely inspired by fairness, by “we” instead of “I” and “me”: togetherness gives us a feeling of comfort and belonging. This means that today’s homo-economicus is not necessarily driven by rationality, but by fairness, generosity and trust as well as to compliance to norms that are part and parcel of being. So, our natural inclination is to co-operate.
This is how the new leadership concept for the 21st century can be summarised. The traditional model based on unification of the needs of employees and striving for short-term profit-maximization has come into question in terms of effectiveness in the dynamics of a heterogeneous environment of global communities and companies. Today, the way we do business requires a significant ‘re-think’ for leadership because problems are more complex. This requires a much deeper and more profound comprehension of problems, no longer allowing for decisions based on assumption and brittle knowledge, or in other words, a developing cultural agility that starts with an open attitude and ends in self-awareness, knowledge, talents, aptitude and skills. This requires leaders to be courageous, clear, compassionate and far more conscious about themselves and others.
When I used to suggest “inward-resilience” to CEOs and senior executives, they would respond, smiling shallowly, “tangibles and hard facts!” But today all is changing: soft-values drive hard results. Anything that changes our morals and values to the better, changes our behaviour for the better as well. And this is a grand competitive advantage, not just for one, but for all. That is why it is worth challenging the narratives of traditional old-school leadership.
In the age of globalization, leaders have a new, vital 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, safe, serene and inspired working environment where employees feel at ease. How can this be achieved? First of all, it is about empathy. This feature, usually not identified with leadership, is a key characteristic of an inclusive leader.
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, a leader also pays attention to filling one of the most important human needs – a sense of bonding and belonging, a sense of acceptance – as this builds a unified team.
Furthermore, a leader does not manage a homogeneous team from the top, but contributes to the company’s success together with employees, based on mutual respect, humility, openness to each other’s cultures, and a willingness to cooperate. That is why cultural intelligence – together with inclusive leadership – become key elements of 21st century leadership. Before we can succeed as a leader, we must overcome our own fears and inhibitions. If we do not have sufficient self-awareness and inner acceptance, we will not muster the courage to change ourselves, and likewise, will not be able to inspire others to make the changes they need to better themselves.
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 who is more motivated shows commitment and creativity, and is a better problem-solver because he better understands the real problems. For example, when we see a problem – whether of cost reduction, team conflict, or whatever – we then say: “We have got to solve that problem immediately”. But too often, we are doing the opposite – producing that sort of problem by the very manner in which we go on without – instead of looking at it differently, outwardly, beyond rational thinking, driven by intuition and instincts.
Research also indicates that an empathetic and intuitive style of leadership raises positive reactions of shareholders and customers, improving the perception of the company in the market. All in all, inclusive leadership is a leadership model that emphasizes the following: a mind-set that is not limited to thought but to understanding, to sharing and to bringing people together to create a social balance. Today we need clarity for why we are doing things. If we don’t, we won’t comprehend why we do things the way we do it.
People don’t buy “what” you do, they buy it “why” you do it, and good employees want to join a company that angles to have deeper meaning and significant purpose – not profit-maximization – driving them!