Diverse Leadership: A Reflection


by Sophia Dutton

Marketing Manager at Inclusive Recruiting



This year’s Black History Month has, as always, been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate black history and learn about the key figures who fought with both their words and actions for real social change and true representation, regardless of their position. Hopefully it has helped open eyes to different perspectives and started new conversations. Personally, it has made me feel more passionate than ever about the importance of diversity and inclusion.

In particular, this has got me thinking about the power of leadership and the incredible influence leaders can have on their team. And how, if we are to ensure we are building diverse workplaces and making our cultures truly inclusive, we really need to start at the top with a diverse leadership team which reflects our diversity. Recruiting staff from a range of backgrounds and identities is important but if you’re working to improve inclusivity – and you definitely should be – the first place to look is your leadership team.


So what are the key advantages of  a diverse leadership team?

There are many advantages but in researching the subject I found a great article by Chandler Macleod which lists the following 3 key benefits of diverse leadership in an organisation:


1. Better business performance

Diverse businesses tend to perform better than average. Here are some of the contributing factors:

  • By having a leadership team that reflects a commitment to diversity, you’ll find it easier to attract great talent because high-performing people will be more eager to work with you.
  • Diverse leadership teams have a larger pool of experience and unique points of view to draw from, which can help with finding solutions to problems and generating new ideas.
  • Seeing people ‘like me’ in powerful positions can inspire employees to stay longer and strive for promotions themselves (i.e. increasing staff retention and motivation).
  • People from different groups and backgrounds often bring unique connections with them, which can lead to more networking opportunities for your company.

If you need a business case for building a diverse leadership team, the potential performance boost is your best angle. This has been shown in studies such as this one by Gallup and this one by McKinsey & Company.


Diverse Leadership


2. Better staff motivation

Imagine being from an ethnic minority background and all your managers are white. Or being a female employee and seeing a consistently all-male leadership team. When you don’t have a role model within your company, it’s more difficult to feel motivated or envision a path forward for yourself.

This scenario can also make an employee feel like diversity isn’t really valued by the business’s leaders. Yes, the company has a D&I strategy, but does that mean much if it’s not reflected in who the company hires and promotes into senior positions? And what kind of image does it present if a certain category of person are only present in the lower levels of your business’s hierarchy?

It’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle of only promoting particular people because only those people are inspired to stick around and apply for those promotions.

In contrast, having someone in the leadership team who represents a minority can reinforce to similar employees that:

  • Their presence and contributions are valued.
  • Somebody in the management team can relate to them.
  • There are opportunities for them to progress in the company.

Seeing somebody who shares a crucial part of your identity in a position of power can have a greater impact than you might realise – on staff motivation, retention, satisfaction and productivity.


Diverse Leadership


…And this rings so true with us at Inclusive Recruiting!

The empowering impact of a diverse leadership team is further reflected in video interviews we posted earlier this year – as part of a series of conversations about diversity and inclusion conducted by Inclusive Recruiting’s MD Vanessa Johnson-Burgess.

One of the questions Vanessa put to the participating professionals was:

“Why is diverse representation at senior level important?”

Here was one response:

“If you have a really diverse team, it shows you understand the principle that diversity brings value and is something you are willing to embrace, cherish and nurture. And that says a lot for me. And as a culture within an organisation, it says so much about your innovations, honesty, integrity, direction and vision, your values. And I wouldn’t want to work for a company unless I could see that reflected.”

Another participant discussed the importance of representation and expressed how paramount it is that there is representation of diversity at senior level and for others to see “someone like me” in their senior team.

You can watch the video here.


3. Better for society

Another benefit of diverse leadership in business is the impact on society itself. If groups are under-represented in business, then this becomes a problem both for people and for businesses. Just look at some of the tone-deaf and downright offensive marketing mishaps that could have been easily avoided by having a more varied group of decision-makers.

By giving senior opportunities to a diverse range of qualified people, you can help open the door for inclusion and representation in other facets of society. Every step towards a diverse leadership team is like dropping a stone in a lake – the ripples can continue to reach out for miles and miles.

It’s vital that when we look around at our society, we see something of ourselves reflected.


So, in conclusion…

There are of course other reasons why it is better to have diversity from the top level down, too many for me to cover here. But the benefits to business performance, staff motivation and wider society are reason enough to convince me that this is something we should all be striving for. Here at Inclusive Recruiting we go into greater depth on building diverse workplaces in our programme of workshops, in addition to advising on how to develop the processes that will embed inclusivity and belonging into an organisation – you can find more info about our training workshops here.

Actions speak louder than words and your employees will always notice who you promote into positions of power.

This is not to suggest there is a perfect diversity quota you need to achieve for your leadership team or that you need to start dismissing good people for the sake of diversity. You don’t need to have a checklist of genders, ethnicities, religions, abilities and sexual orientations for you to tick off. Keep an open mind when making decisions about your leadership team and hire people who can bring new perspectives to your management meetings and relate personally with a wide range of your employees. Remain aware and recognise if/when your top level becomes too homogenous – and then question why that may have happened.

We need diverse leadership teams that reflect our diverse workplaces.

Leadership should mirror our diversity.


Inclusive Recruiting

Recruitment agency, placing diverse talent and delivering inclusion training to progressive organisations.