Current State

Most employers (76%) are receptive to improving the level of inclusion and inclusive leadership in their organizations, but less than half have success in effectively training leaders to demonstrate inclusive leadership, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, How to Develop Inclusive Leaders: An Inside Look.


Driving greater inclusion and helping leaders adapt to a more inclusive style of leadership amount to culture change, which must occur at all levels of an organization to be successful.

Overall, our study showed that about one-third of employers are training at all levels; from the C-Suite to individual contributors. But no more than 41% are training on inclusive leadership at any one employee level. Employers who rate developing inclusive leaders as important or critical are, on average, 32% more likely to train all employee levels. 

Inclusive Leader Training at Different Levels of Organizations


Overall, 41% of organizations have less than one-fifth of their senior leaders (VP and above) coming from diverse groups. This includes women, people of color, LGBTQ+, veterans, people with disabilities and other diverse populations. Only about one in 10 organizations have more than 40% of top leadership that is inclusive of people of diversity. Organizations that say they have a high degree of inclusive leadership are twice as likely to have at least 40% of top leaders from diverse groups.

Portion of Senior Leaders (VP and Above) from Diverse Groups

Critical Question

  • What are our greatest barriers to having a more inclusive culture?
  • Do our leaders consistently demonstrate the values of our organization?
  • Are there particular strategies or behaviors that are in the most serious need of attention?
  • How can we make inclusive leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion a greater priority without sacrificing other business goals?

Brandon Hall Group POV

Brandon Hall Group asked organizations whether they actively train leaders on 15 specific traits or “personas.” Our previous research and experience advising organizations on diversity, equity and inclusion indicated these traits were important. Our DE&I Certification programs are based on these personas as well as eight strategic and leadership skills.

Among organizations that said their inclusive leader training has been effective or highly effective, these are the seven traits that at least half of these employers focus on now:

• Willing to take risks but avoiding recklessness
• Standing up for what you believe in without intruding on others’ beliefs
• Seeking to do what is right

• Open to continuous learning, valuing the discovery of new things and applying them
• Helping others learn and reach their potential
• Seeking new sources of information and insights and incorporating them into your work and interactions

• Mindfulness of others and their situations
• Showing respect for others and not judging their circumstances, thoughts or actions
• Offering kindness and compassion and proactively supporting other

• Having the ability to be self-reflective and identify inclusive thoughts and actions
• Being open-minded, not opinionated
• Supporting diversity rather than like-mindedness

• Being proactive
• Offering sound decisionmaking and fostering an inclusive approach
• Agility and versatility

• Projecting one’s authentic self
• Behaving ethically in all interactions
• Honesty and transparency about goals and values

• Freely seeking and valuing all opinions
• Understanding the importance of diverse thinking and actions
• Understanding that working together is better than working alone

On average, organizations reporting high effectiveness in inclusive leader training are 72% more likely to train on these personas compared to organizations reporting lower effectiveness, the research shows. While all personas are important, these seven are a great place to begin if you are striving to increase your organization’s focus on inclusive leadership. Inclusion, like most culture-change initiatives, must be supported and demonstrated by leaders. It also must be demonstrated from the front lines to the C-Suite, which is why training on inclusive leadership must occur at all levels. 


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Claude Werder

Claude Werder oversees Brandon Hall Group's analyst team, new product development, corporate development, the HCM Excellence Conference 2015, publishing, and social media and marketing strategies for Brandon Hall Group. In that role, he manages Brandon Hall Group’s research priorities, Membership Program and Member Center, and Brandon Hall Group’s exclusive KnowledgeBases of research data and HCM solution providers, services and products.