While research in the diversity and leadership literatures has given attention to the concept of inclusive leadership, work in these areas has progressed within relatively independent theoretical streams with little integration of findings. To integrate findings from these literatures and develop theory on inclusive leadership, this study explores the concept and enactment of inclusive leadership from the leader’s perspective. Through manual and assisted thematic analyses of 27 leaders’ written responses to questions regarding how they perceive and demonstrate inclusive leadership, we investigate how leaders do sensemaking about what it means to be inclusive. Consistent with the findings of prior research, conceptualization themes emerged related to understanding, valuing, and utilizing differences as well as encouraging a shared identity and collaboration. The findings also highlight the importance of relational leadership—specifically, relating to, showing a genuine interest in, and generating trust from others on the team. In the demonstration of inclusive leadership, the results emphasize behaviors to recognize diversity, respond to individual needs and work styles, and actively listen to what team members voice. Our findings also highlight the importance of building environments in which members share and build on each other’s ideas freely and leaders make time and space for leveraging member contributions for decision-making, even when such contributions diverge from team norms. Based on these insights, we consider the limitations of our work and offer directions for theory, research, and practice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Applied Psychology
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management