6 Ways to Be an Inclusive Manager in a Diverse Workforce

October 28, 2019

How to be an inclusive leader in a diverse workforce

Diverse talent brings the skills, perspectives, and experiences organizations need to be successful. It’s no surprise that organizations are under pressure to hire diverse teams. But diversity without inclusion is a dead end. 

Even though 97% of companies have a diversity program in place, as much as 50% of underrepresented groups still see bias as part of their everyday experience at work, according to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCS).

Why would a diverse population want to work on a team that’s not inclusive? They wouldn’t.

Dr. Shirley Davis, a 20-year diversity and inclusion officer and HR veteran, provides an illustrative real-world example of why you can’t have diversity without inclusion in her course, Inclusive Leadership.

Davis was hired to lead diversity and inclusion efforts for a large, global corporation and recruit more people of color. She was surprised to that hear this was a top priority for an organization that had racial slurs on bathroom stalls, abysmal employee morale among minorities and women, and lack of trust between staff and employees.

While we all hope this is a rare and extreme example, the BCS study shows that day-to-day bias is still far too common in today’s workforce. 

Be an example of an inclusive manager at your organization by developing your strengths in these six traits of inclusive leaders.

Check out Shirley Davis's full course, Inclusive Leadership

The 6 Cs of Inclusive Leadership

Davis explains the 6 Cs as the essential qualities that show “an openness to different ways of doing things, leaning into some discomfort, and demonstrating courage to embrace the unknown and the unfamiliar.”

Understand how inclusive you are as a manager by going through the “6 Cs” below. Rate yourself on a scale of one to five: one not being effective at all, five being very effective. 

Once you’re done, you’ll focus in on ways to improve your scores (more on that later) so you and your team can benefit from the unique ideas and viewpoints that diverse talent brings to the table. 


Do you commit your time, energy, and support to invest in people’s unique contributions? 

A high level of commitment empowers and inspires others to reach their potential.


Do you challenge the status quo and speak up about deeply held and ingrained beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that foster homogeneity? 

Courage is about being brave and humble. Inclusive managers recognize their own shortcomings and are willing to admit to their mistakes. 

Cognizance of bias

Do you make a deliberate effort to identify your own biases and learn ways to prevent them from influencing talent decisions? Do you actively implement policies, processes, and structure to prevent organizational biases from stifling diversity and inclusion?

Inclusive managers understand that personal and organizational biases narrow their field of vision and preclude them from being objective. 


Do you have an open mindset and a hunger for other perspectives to minimize your blind spots? Do you engage in respectful questioning and active listening?

Inclusive managers refrain from making quick judgments that stifle the flow of ideas. They synthesize a range of ideas, making people feel valued, respected, and that they belong. 

Cultural intelligence

Do you understand how your own culture impacts your personal worldview? Do you recognize how cultural stereotypes influence your expectations of others? 

Inclusive managers are adept at functioning effectively in different cultural settings. They know when and how to adapt while also maintaining their own cultural authenticity. 


Do you create a safe space for all individuals to express their opinions freely without judgment or retribution? 

Inclusive managers know that diversity of thought is key to effective collaboration, which drives team performance and success. They pay close attention to team composition and team processes. 

Take action

Now that you’ve assessed where you stand on being an inclusive leader, take action by: 

  • Identifying at least one behavior in each category that you can improve upon. 

  • From that list, pick three things to start doing today to be more inclusive.

  • Focus on those three areas for the next 60 days. 

  • Hold yourself accountable by sharing your plan with a partner, friend, colleague, and/or boss.

  • After 60 days, pick three more behaviors to tackle.

  • Come back to your list quarterly and see where you’re making progress, and where there’s still room to grow.

Check out Dr. Davis’ course, Inclusive Leadership, for more resources to assess your leadership style, strategies to uncover unconscious biases, and tips for building a trusted, safe workplace. 

Some other LinkedIn Learning courses you might be interested in are: