From servant leaders to Level 7 leaders to authentic leaders, there are many ways to lead an effective team. Not everyone is born with strong leadership skills, however. Fortunately, leadership capabilities can be learned and manifested in many organizations.

One way to create inclusive and effective leaders is by implementing what we call at my firm, Inclusion Wins, “inclusion systems.” These systems help all stakeholders thrive and contribute their best to creating a generative culture that achieves business goals.

Leadership is hard work. Whether you are in a management role that asserts you into leadership, or find yourself leading in a more informal influential capacity, the work it takes to do it well is no small task. In my experience, leadership is as much an inner journey as it is an externally performed one.

The leading (or most popular) scholars in the leadership space like Ronald Heifetz, Robert Greenleaf, Jim Collins and even contemporary influencers like Simon Sinek, state that leadership theories have a few things in common.

These include leadership being a helping force in the growth of others (servant leadership), anticipation of future needs and the ability to adapt to them (adaptive leadership) and the seemingly contradictory Level 5 leader who is humble, incredibly fearless and willful.

Consider what happens if we step away from viewing these popular models as ideals for leadership, and instead as aspirations for growth, potential transformation and organizational impact. Such a reframing presents us with immense possibilities for how we can positively affect the organizations and communities where we work and live.

Leadership Capabilities Are Interdependent

Most of these leadership models, including those not listed above, contain elements overlapping with well-known inclusive leadership models. They are interdependent.

The generalized capabilities associated with the highest levels of leadership — self-awareness, humility, adaptability, collaboration, curiosity, cognizance, trust, courage, and openness — are all reflective of inclusivity.

Many of the capabilities needed for inclusivity can be considered synonymous or mutually reinforcing to those needed for leadership. For example, people who are open to others have a greater possibility of developing trust. And those who are remarkably self-aware will be more adaptive and conscientious.

Leading an Inclusive Team

Given the possibilities of developing these capabilities and recognizing that such skills reflect inclusive leadership, let’s consider the following questions:

  1. Does having more of these inclusive leadership capabilities allow us to better help underrepresented groups?
  2. Can these capabilities be taught?

In an article, Dr. Richard Claydon states, “Leadership needs to be something we do and learn in practice as well as through more formal developmental processes.” Claydon’s statement suggests that individuals can learn the theoretical elements of leadership. However, when it comes to helping diverse or underrepresented groups in organizations, it also means that people must learn leadership capabilities at a team level. Therefore, accounting for and learning via your people’s nuanced and highly contextual life experiences is vital.

Modern-day organizations need to elevate their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) capabilities to adapt to perpetual ambiguity and complexity. Constant individual and team reflection are required to do so. While developing an inclusion system, where inclusion and equity are normative, leaders (of all types and at all organizational levels) must constantly expand their capacity to create the conditions for everyone in the organization to thrive.