What would you consider the most important attributes for an effective leader? Often, it will be strength, confidence, decisiveness and other powerful qualities. But, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at UCL and Colombia University, argues that it is the often over-looked traits of curiosity, humility and courage that are vital for a leader to be truly inclusive.
Much has been written about the necessity for a ‘culture of inclusion’. In order to attract and retain the best possible people for an organisation, openness to a diversity of backgrounds, skillsets, values and beliefs is essential. That attitude and expectation has to be defined from the top. Leadership is key to building a diverse and inclusive culture.
In his article outlining the three key attributes for an inclusive leader, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic points to scientific research to reinforce his argument.
Chamorro-Premuzic believes that curiosity is the most instrumental quality to enable a leader to create an inclusive culture. Curious leaders will be more empathic and interested in people, keen to hear their opinions and thoughts. They will be more open to employing people who are different from themselves too. It has an impact on the entire workplace culture. Chamorro-Premuzic says, “When you are led by a person with a hungry mind, you are more likely to behave in open-minded and curious ways yourself.” A culture that promotes questioning and empathy can only be good for diversity.
Not a trait often associated with leadership, humility allows a person to recognise their own limitations and, subsequently, empower others to step up in those areas. They require people with a range of backgrounds, strengths and traits to work alongside them. This is a stark contrast to the notorious, arrogant and self-centred boss who is far less likely to be concerned about attracting a diverse team for his (or her) organisation.
“While curious and humble leaders will be better equipped to create a culture of inclusivity, they will also need courage to pursue this goal” according to Chamorro-Premuzic. Leaders need to drive change and encourage their team to embrace it. Instigating change and causing disruption can be unpopular, with many employees being fearful and resistant to breaking from their current norm. But change and questioning are necessary to move forward. In Chamorro-Premuzic’s words, “unless we have courageous leaders who are genuinely committed to fighting for change, leadership will just remain a political activity where the concentration of power remains static.”
Leaders with levels of curiosity and humility will be able to communicate the benefits of change to their employees better. Equipped with empathy and having considered the opinions of people around them, they will have a better understanding of the team climate which will inform their decision-making and define the future of the organisation.