Opportunity Now ‘Inclusive Leadership: From Pioneer to Mainstream’

This research was conducted and analysed by Dr Gillian Shapiro. The report was written by Dr Gillian Shapiro, of Shapiro Consulting Ltd, and Helen Wells and Rachael Saunders of Opportunity Now, Sept 2011.


  • To promote the value of ‘inclusive leadership’ in organisations, creating cultures where all staff can thrive and realise their potential.

  • To mainstream inclusive leaders – currently there are a small number of ‘pioneer’ inclusive leaders, but this needs to be much more common.


To create more inclusive leaders we need to

  • Create more role models at all levels of the organisation with inclusive competence to encourage others to emulate them

  • Create more opportunities with development programmes for managers and leaders to build more inclusive behaviours and skills

  • Make it essential to demonstrate inclusive behaviours when recruiting and promoting leaders.

The research presents a 5 step model to building inclusive leadership –

  1. Build a sponsorship and change agent group, including senior leaders and decision-makers, HR, emerging leaders from under-represented groups, Inclusion and Diversity practitioners etc

  2. Define the strategic imperative for inclusive leadership.  Once defined it has to be communicated across the organisation.

  3. Identify your organisation’s inclusive leadership gap.  Leaders should also assess their own capabilities in inclusive leadership.

  4. Equip leaders to become great inclusive leaders

  5. Assess the outcomes of mainstreaming inclusive leadership – this needs to be regularly measured and monitored.

Key messages:

  • Leadership is key to transforming organisational culture.

  • Organisations require leaders with diversity of thought coming from diverse backgrounds that can foster innovation, maximise employee engagement and make the most of the potential of their people.

  • Inclusive leaders are adaptable, innovative, and skilled in building a diverse talent pipeline.

  • Inclusive leaders motivate their teams and improve productivity

  • Making the most of a diverse workforce is not just the right thing to do; it is a commercial imperative.

Read more on the Opportunity Now website.