Company executives arrive in their private jet; a driver whisks them off to their firm’s site; then quickly in through the front door, into the lobby elevator, and up out of sight to the executive floor…

Sound familiar?

There’s an element of prestige and exclusivity that comes with being wealthy and powerful. There is also a case for why these leaders need to isolate themselves from the masses in their organizations – it allows them to manage their time, and it shields them from disgruntled employees or overly enthusiastic fans. However, this exclusivity seems to be in direct opposition to the style of leadership that is necessary today.

Inclusive leadership is key to the modern company’s health and success.

Let’s define the term “inclusive leadership.”

In an article in Deloitte Insights, Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon write, “Diversity of markets, customers, ideas, and talent is driving the need for inclusion as a new leadership capability.” Inclusive leadership, as the methodology to manage diversity, is what sparks innovation. And innovation is what drives growth.

The blog Discprofiles.com states that inclusive leadership is one of eight styles of leadership, and “inclusive leaders are people-oriented, great listeners, able to tap into the talents and motivations of their teams.”

Korn Ferry contends that “inclusive leaders will drive organizational growth in the 21st century.”

Bernard Coleman III, Uber’s head of diversity and inclusion, wrote in Forbes, “Be good to people … Becoming an inclusive leader is not rocket science; it’s actually quite the opposite. It starts with the old adage, ‘Treat others as you would like to be treated.’”

Do Executives Need to Be Less Exclusive?

Transparency and communication are becoming more and more important both to employees and customers. Leaders will need to share more about their opinions or perspectives – both personally and related to their business. Today’s consumers crave less functional information and more stories about the impact products have, and they want to know the people who are behind those products. Not only is it important to teach ways leaders can practice inclusion, but it’s also important to help them find authentic ways to communicate inclusively.

It may not be that executives have to give up their private jet, driver and private office space, but it does mean that they will need to delegate time for observing, asking and listening to the communities they operate in, in order to truly understand the mindset of their markets and gauge the direction of their business operations.

“Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue,” wrote Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, “The Leadership Challenge.” How can L&D support inclusive leadership?

1. Become a partner to senior leaders.

Show them how to do what you do best. Encourage them to build their brands on social channels, write articles, post their thoughts, take photos and share with others. Recommend that they be more present for employees. Tell them to spend more time in the office. Organize “coffee corners” or public sessions, and recommend they keep office hours to interact with select individuals. Explain the business case for their efforts: The company will attract and retain the best talent, they’ll hear from the ground what the organization needs in order to drive business growth, and they’ll boost their image.

2. Teach leaders the O.A.R. method.

O.A.R. (observe, ask and react) is a model I developed for managers and leaders: First, watch the situation. What’s happening? Who’s involved? Why is it the way it is? Take time to mine for more data to confirm observations. Next, ask questions. How do people feel? What do they think? What would they advise? Finally, choose a reaction only once you are sure of the situation – once you have all the information at hand. Coaching skills are an extension of this model. If leaders become good coaches, they can empower others, learn more and scale their leadership.

3. Ramp up your diversity programs.

Innovation is driven by diversity, and inclusion is the methodology to manage diversity. Leaders are missing out if they hire their best friends and only listen to the people they went to business school with. If leaders understand the impact of qualities like gender, culture and age on customers’ mindsets, they will deliver more value. Simple behavioral changes like using more inclusive language can motivate and engage team members, causing them to thrive.

Inclusive leadership is the modern capability that will encourage your company’s growth and success. It’s not just a “soft,” nice-to-have quality; it’s a requirement for leaders who motivate, empower and inspire people and develop long-lasting relationships and sustainable teamwork.

Try it: The next time your executives arrive in their private jet, ask them to join a lunch with the team before disappearing behind those large, oak doors.

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