Current State

“Command and control” leadership is out and inclusive leadership is in.

This shift had been evolving for several years, but accelerated in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice movement. Each situation underscored the need for inclusion in its own way. Organizations want leaders who can collaborate and bring out everyone’s talents to manage and thrive during a time of unprecedented disruption.

Most Important Leader Behaviors to Develop*


2020 brought out the best in leaders at all levels. In the prolonged crisis, leaders excelled at behaviors such as showing kindness and patience, caring for the well-being of others, empathy and listening.

But more complex behaviors, such as building trust, empowering and influencing others, and demonstrating awareness of one’s own biases and acting to minimize them, were not demonstrated nearly as often. These are the behaviors that are most important in driving inclusive leadership, Brandon Hall Group research shows.

Inclusive Leadership Behaviors Most Often Demonstrated During Crises of 2020


Only about half of organizations believe their leaders have the emotional intelligence and other leadership competencies to successfully drive business goals. Among the top reasons is that leadership programs focus too much on management skills and not enough on foundational leadership skills.

Organizations need to commit to developing behaviors in emerging leaders that meet the needs of business to leverage all talent to drive results.

Critical Question

• Which behaviors are most important to develop in high-potential leaders?

• What are the best strategies to develop those behaviors?

Brandon Hall Group POV

It’s interesting that emotional intelligence ranks only tenth among the most important leadership behaviors (see above) because most higher-ranked behaviors require, or are an outgrowth of, emotional intelligence.

The foundational base of inclusive leadership is emotional intelligence and that is what organizations should look for in potential leaders. The four elements of emotional intelligence are:

Self-awareness This includes understanding one’s own biases. To be truly inclusive, you first need to understand yourself. Everything else around inclusive leadership flows from there.

Self-regulation Once you understand your biases and other tendencies, you can manage your behaviors and emotions to maximize your effectiveness as a leader.

Social awareness Inclusion requires the ability to understand the actions and motivations of those around you so you can recognize barriers that must be overcome.

Relationship management This is inclusion in action: understanding yourself in relation to others and communicating and collaborating effectively to build strong relationships that gets people pulling in the same direction and working toward common goals.

From that foundation, other leadership behavior, such as coaching, mentoring, collaborating, reducing conflict and managing change, become more intuitive and easier to develop.

Some organizations cling to the misguided belief that emotional intelligence is something you are — or are not — born with and cannot be developed. That has been proven to be untrue as many organizations build rich cultures around the development of emotional intelligence among leaders and employees.

The key is to build emotional intelligence as early as possible in a potential leader’s development journey. One of 2020’s most welcome changes is a shift in organizations’ focus from developing executive and senior leaders to developing front line and midlevel leaders and individual contributors who have leadership potential.

Those people are the ones who will lead the organization into the future, so it is extremely wise to

focus first on their development to build a foundation that will grow and mature in the years ahead.

Most Important Groups to Develop as Leaders in 2021


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