How to Develop Leaders to be Inclusive and Empower People

How to Develop Leaders to be Inclusive and Empower People

The right process, individual strengths and getting leadership buy-in – here’s how to develop leaders strategically for high performance

By our #CompanyCulture team

The programme-thinking trap. Truly unique leaders. And getting management to bite. Instilling a truly effective leadership growth process in your company is not a one-size-fits-all exercise. Nor is it something with a beginning and end date.

With close to 20 years of experience in human behaviour and how this plays into business – of any size – we can tell you now that leadership development is strategic, individual and ongoing. It’s a culture thing.

And, here, we share our tried-and-tested process on how to develop leaders that are inclusive and will help empower your people.

But first, we have to talk about what will and won’t work…


Walk into any company right now, and chances are that their solution to leadership development will be some sort of programme. A single, standard process that’s selected and approved and EVERYONE must participate in – employees have no choice.

This is concerning because the one-size-fits-all programme thinking approach assumes that all employees are the same, and therefore the programme will/should deliver the same results for everyone.

That’s just not true.

In reality, no two people experience a programme in the same way.

We all have different personalities, and personal strengths and we’re all in different places in our lives. You actually can’t develop everyone in the same way.


1. Focus on Individual Strengths

The answer is, of course, to find a process that can identify and work with each person’s individual talents and strengths.

In our own business, and with many clients, we use Gallup Strengths as the starting point for any development journey. Simply because it’s proven the most effective.

What it allows us to do is to very accurately identify each individual’s unique skills and talents – and it’s proven quite effective: the odds of 2 people having the same strengths skillset is 33 million to 1. And we’ve never come across two identical skill sets thus far.

This allows you to coach each manager individually, on their own unique management style. Focusing on their own unique strengths.

Why it’s so Effective – Creates Inclusive Leaders

The beauty of this approach is that it starts by helping the leader understand their own unique strengths. (And therefore, their weaknesses.) Which is so vital for creating inclusive leadership.

Because inclusive leadership is: Leaders who are AWARE of their own capabilities and actively seek out and develop OTHERS who bring NEW strengths to the table. Or at least focus on developing others who complement them and each other.

2. Then Roll it Out to Entire Teams

Once you have a strengths-based process with your leadership, you can start to roll out more in-depth individual management development with them.

But you can simultaneously roll out a strengths process with the rest of your teams because that’s where the future leaders are going to come from after all.

This process also helps develop your leaders further, because now they get to spearhead the same kind of process within their team. Which teaches them how to develop a team based on individual strengths.

Further strengthening the inclusive leadership role – and helping them empower others in the process.


OK, so the biggest challenge many HRs and development leaders in companies face, is getting 1) company leadership and 2) their managers on board with any new development programme.

Getting people to actually engage in any new process is tough.

People don’t like to be psycho analysed – they’re afraid of being judged, labelled and put into a box.

And it’s important to note that you don’t want to fall into the programme-thinking trap of forcing them to do it.

So we’ve got a useful roll-out guide for a new leadership development process…

1. Use Something that’s Proven & Unique

The quality of the process is very important. People decide almost instantly if something is worth their time or not.

That’s why, as we mentioned before, we tried so many different approaching until we eventually found the Gallup Strengths one.

If only because it delivers such unique in-depth results – that 1-in-33 million-thing is really a reflection of how good the process design is.

2. Be Strategic About Your Roll-Out

With any new development process, it’s vital for you to give people a first-impression experience that lets THEM instantly see the value in taking part.

They need to WANT it.

And a boxing-clever way we found of doing that is to select 1 or 2 leaders that are perhaps a little more open to trying something new. And do a pilot session with them.

Once they’ve experienced it, you’ll be able to gauge their receptiveness.

If all goes well – and it usually does – the new process will become a pretty hot topic around the proverbial water cooler.

More people will want to know about this new process. We’ve seen word spread around an office and people coming and asking their HR about this new thing.

Then maybe it’s time to do a larger session, with a few more people/teams. So even more people hear about it.

And, once you have that critical mass, you’ll be able to roll out the new process way more effectively.

Now that’s using culture to help develop leaders.

Need some more advice on strengths and leadership development? Ask us here.


Learn to build a team with a mix of complementary skills.

Discover the 7 keys to creating open communication in your company.

See how you can help your leadership improve performance.

Discover 5 simple ways to build more trust in teams.

And see how to use KPIs and metrics to improve performance.

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