According to Gallup, “Organizations that are the best in engaging their employees achieve earnings-per-share growth that is more than four times that of their competitors. Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability. Engaged workers also report better health outcomes.”
Those were the findings of a Gallup poll in 2018. The advantages of the “engaged worker” were known long before that but perhaps not as boldly quantified. Since then, the competitive benefits of engagement, diversity and inclusion have become the bedrock of leadership teaching and practice.
The AESC (Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants) recently interviewed John Amaechi, OBE, an organizational psychologist, author, Board Director, and thought leader on the relationship between diversity and inclusion and organizational competitiveness. Amaechi identifies a direct link between engagement and leadership.
“The social and political upheaval, upended supply chains and accelerating digital disruption in 2020 have left many organizations rethinking what they need in their leaders,” Amaechi says. “Before the craziness ensued, leaders were decent resource managers. They were decent at giving one appraisal a year, but they weren’t motivational.
“Now we’re in a scenario where workers have been humanized. Workplaces have had to realize that their people are human beings with fear, anxiety, worry. Now they realize that whatever gulf there was between the need for brilliant leadership and the quality of it has now doubled, and inclusion is a part of that picture.”
Building Inclusive Leaders
If diversity and inclusion can be taught, is it also possible to identify inclusive leaders? Amaechi points to several qualities that can signal if leaders are likely to be inclusive.
Socialized leadership motivation: “This is the idea that you want power, but you want power in order to utilize it on behalf of your team, as opposed to an individualized or personalized power motivation where you want power, because power is good.”
Self-confidence versus bravado: “Inclusive leaders are self-confident, but at the same time realize that they have to have a confidence that is exhibited in a way that doesn’t turn people away or make them think they are absolutely invulnerable.”
Emotional stability: “Inclusive leaders are the kind of leaders who have a predictable response, who don’t fly off the handle one day and then come in and schmooze the next day; are stoic one day and the next day, they are bubbly. Inclusion requires that people have a predictability.”
Coming Out On Top
COVID-19 forced leaders to pivot and organizations to adapt, and the disruption isn’t over. Even before the pandemic, digital transformation and the pace of change required a fresh look at leadership. Amaechi notes that one of the jobs of search and leadership consulting is to help clients think about talent differently.
As Peter Drucker has stated: “the greatest danger in time of turbulence is not the turbulence. It is acting with yesterday’s logic.”
As Amaechi sees it, the role of an executive search and development consultant — AESC members such as Cornerstone – is to help leaders realize that what makes you comfortable is not what will make you win.
“People talk about wanting to win,” Amaechi says, “but really what they mean is they want to not lose whilst being as comfortable as possible. And that’s not the same thing.
“Emotionally literate, intellectually curious leaders will prevail. Leaders who aren’t bound by tradition. Leaders who are willing to be personally inconvenienced for the benefit, for the ease of passage of those junior to them will prevail. Leaders who act as heat shields for disruption and then take much of the pain rather than distribute it through, that leader is going to prevail.”
We are still in the midst of challenging times, and Amaechi cautions, “Organizations that are poorly led by homogenous groups of people, whether they be homogenous demographically, or just homogenous thinkers, will fail. And as a society, we can’t afford that. So, hiring diverse people, making sure that leaders with diverse skills find that opportunity and flourish is for the benefit of us all.”
For more insight into the challenges of leadership today, read more AESC articles here