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Diversity + Inclusion


  • Sylvia Apostolidis

Why You Should Stop Building Inclusive Leaders (and what you should do instead)

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

The Jasmar Group’s evidence-based approach is why we shifted from building “Inclusive Leaders” to “Transformational Leaders”. The bottom line is that transformational leadership is the most effective leadership style, backed by a history of evidence and rigorous measurement. This means we can confidently and consistently assess exactly what transformational leadership is, and who practices these behaviours so that we can train and develop leaders. “Inclusive Leadership”, on the other hand, is an underdeveloped and untested concept, which doesn’t have a universal standard for measurement

Exclusive Leadership is not an option

Transformational leaders excel at communicating a clear vision and motivating their team with their passion and commitment. They lead by example, engaging their team on an emotional level, avoiding the use of power to influence. They challenge the status quo, push boundaries, and support their followers to do the same, encouraging ideas, creativity and each person’s unique contributions. They exhibit the characteristics required to lead a diverse team; curiosity, openness, courage, humility and collaboration – all the traits typically associated with inclusive leadership, yet without the underlying assumption that being an exclusive leader is an option.

Transformational leadership encompasses clearly identified skills and behaviours required to lead all team members. These competencies are not only useful within the DE&I space but rather are often leveraged to improve evaluation, promotion and leadership processes. Transformational leadership should be an expectation, not a nice-to-have, that all leaders have the skills to lead for diverse thinking teams, recognizing the barriers experienced by some groups and not others and striving for equity over equality. We need to simplify leadership, not complicate it. On the contrary, by utilizing the underdeveloped concept of inclusive leadership goals become unclear and hard to achieve.

Let’s Simplify Leadership

So, let’s explore how to build transformational leaders to effectively leverage diversity and increase innovation, creativity and team performance. Transformational leaders excel at four behaviours: they build trust, act with integrity, encourage innovation, and develop their people.

  • Builds Trust: Driven by serving and empowering their employees to reach their goals

  • Acts with Integrity: The leader acts in line with their values and the organization’s mission

  • Encourages Innovation: Promotes exploring new and diverse ideas, embracing risk, failure, and continuous learning

  • Develops People: Team members are supported to be their unique selves and recognized for their unique identities and contributions

We Need Leadership That Meets Our Universal BAM Needs

Transformational leaders serve their teams by tapping into employees’ deepest motivational drivers, their BAM needs: belonging, autonomy, and mastery. We all need to belong to a group, have autonomy over ourselves and our work, and strive for mastery. It is easy to understand why leaders must prioritize fulfilling these needs to reap the benefits of a diverse and inclusive team.

  • When leaders build belonging, team members feel connected and support each other

  • When leaders create autonomy, team members are coached to find the answer, not micromanaged

  • When leaders enable mastery, team members grow and develop while collaborating

Leaders that serve these three needs can better motivate their teams, create a safe space to speak up, and ensure everyone’s voice is amplified. The result? Stronger business results, including higher motivation, retention, and performance.

One small action at a time, consistently delivered to your team, is the recipe for better leadership

An inclusive culture happens one small habit at a time. How can we practice Tiny BAM Habits to create psychological safety and innovation, for everyone? Here’s one idea:

The Tiny BAM Habit of Recognition: When leaders design for belonging, team dynamics are driven by positive emotions, like gratitude, , motivating them to go above and beyond for others. The Tiny BAM Habit of encouraging each person’s unique contribution through questions such as, “Do you have suggestions to improve our approach so far?” or “How can we use your unique skills in this new project?”, has rippling effects throughout the organization.

Small changes. Big difference.

Transformational leaders are inclusive. By practicing Tiny BAM Habits every day and recognizing and leveraging the uniqueness of each team member, transformational leaders create the right conditions for innovation.

Let’s Make Inclusion Stick!


The Jasmar Group is a behaviour change consultancy that helps organizations build team belonging, culture, and performance. Our solutions are evidence-based and designed to drive faster progress towards diverse and inclusive workplaces.


Follow the The Jasmar Group on LinkedIn and Twitter, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on innovative approaches to workplace diversity and inclusion.


Interested in a new approach to building a diverse and inclusive workplace? Contact Sylvia Apostolidis, President of The Jasmar Group at or 416-262-2779.

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