Fast forward: Leading in a brave new world of diversity

Case studies

Fast forward: Leading in a brave new world of diversity (customers, ideas, talent)

Australia and New Zealand, research paper, June 2015

What do leaders need to be good at today, to create business success tomorrow? Five years out? Ten years out? Inclusive leadership will be the differentiating adaptive factor.

While absolute predictions are difficult we can be certain about three foundational shifts that will play a significant shaping role over the next five to ten years, and which will increasingly influence the strategic priorities of organisations globally.  Specifically:

  • Diversity of customers:  By 2020, it is expected that 3.2 billion people will be ‘middle class’, up from 1.8 billion in 2009 (Deloitte 2014).   Collectively, they provide many organisations with a tantalising opportunity to service the ’next billion consumers’
  • Diversity of ideas: Globalisation, hyper-connectivity and digital innovation are changing the nature of consumption, competition, how markets work and what consumers expect (Deloitte 2012). Opportunity or threat, it is a reality that has catapulted innovation to the top of the business agenda for many organisations
  • Diversity of talent: Future success will depend on an organisation’s ability to optimise an increasingly diverse and dispersed talent pool. 

According to research commissioned by Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand and authored by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon CA, inclusive leadership will be the differentiating adaptive factor to create business success in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world we find ourselves in.

To thrive if not just survive, leaders will need to think and behave differently. Of course, the core elements of leadership are timeless, but this paper highlights that a new capability is vital to the way leadership is executed. The research proposes that ideas about what it means to be an inclusive leader should be woven through the existing core elements of leadership, introducing the six signature traits of an inclusive leader.

The aim of this paper was to explore how the global megatrends are making diversity a business imperative; and identify what leadership behaviours or traits are necessary in this brave new world of diversity.

This paper is based on research with nine best-in-class inclusive leaders in diverse sectors globally and subject matter experts.  The research also heavily built on prior thought leadership and consulting experience of Deloitte with respect to diversity and inclusion.

So what does inclusive leadership mean?  This research pinpointed six signature traits of an inclusive leader, and how their specific patterns of thinking and behaviours translate into business success.  More specifically, highly inclusive leaders demonstrate the following six traits:

  1. Commitment
  2. Courage
  3. Cognisance
  4. Curiosity
  5. Cultural intelligence
  6. Collaboration

Here is a quick snap shot of what inclusive leaders think and do.

Committed inclusive leadership takes time and effort. True commitment was found where leaders went beyond talking about the issues, and embedded actions in their practice, signalling that diversity and inclusion are a true priority.

“It takes energy, it takes effort, it takes mind space, and I think it’s actually harder than being a non-inclusive leader. But the outcomes are so much better; it’s worth it.”  - Clare Harding, Deloitte Australia.

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Courageous inclusive leaders demonstrate this trait on three levels: with others, with the system and with themselves.

“The early adopters of this work have been… perceived as mavericks in their environment. Frankly, they need to be a bit courageous, because this bucks the trend.” - John Lewis Jr, The Coca-Cola Company

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Cognisant leaders are self-aware and act on that self-awareness. They have an awareness of their organisation, and know that despite best intentions there may be policies, processes and structures that carry and perpetuate unconscious bias.

“I am very clear about the type of person I gravitate to when hiring. Consciously, I put all sorts of checks and balances in place with respect to the thinkers I gravitate to.” - Mike Henry, BHP

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Curious inclusive leaders have an open-minded desire to understand how others view and experience the world. An inclusive leader likes to hear divergent considered opinions, because they accept the limitations of their worldview and are always searching for the complete picture.

“I try to listen. And I try to understand why someone’s opinion is different to mine.” - Lt Gen Angus Campbell, The Australian Army

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Culturally intelligent leaders are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions. These leaders understand how communication styles and behaviours should be adapted for cross-cultural situations and they have a good understanding of how their own culture impacts their world view.

Culturally intelligent
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Collaborative inclusive leaders lead from the middle of the circle. Organisations that prioritise collaboration have been shown to be more likely to outgrow competitors, but collaboration amongst diverse groups is challenging.

“Just let a little bit of comfortable quiet give people permission to speak… to know that we are all able to make a contribution.” - Lt Gen Angus Campbell, The Australian Army

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This research has found that the future landscape requires leaders to have a breadth of perspective far beyond their personal knowledge and experience, as well as organisational and national boundaries. Identifying new opportunities, making robust predictions and solving complex problems will only be possible if leaders are connected to, and include, diverse points of view.

Moreover, to succeed, leaders must adapt to those shifts by encouraging diverse business opportunities through diverse ideas and diverse talent. In the context of such diversity, it is those leaders who understand what it is to be truly inclusive who will be able to adapt and forge the way ahead. It is recognised that leaders will need to behave highly inclusively – the differentiating adaptive factor – if they are to lead an increasingly diverse and dispersed workforce.

Read the full report here: Fast Forward: Leading in a Brave New World of Diversity (customers, ideas and talent)

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