< Back to all insights

Six Traits of Inclusive Leadership - A Personal Scorecard

by Adam Clements May 22, 2024
Six Traits Inclusive Leadership 1

Our expectations of how our leaders perform are rightly on the rise, and they are directly impacted by the practice of inclusive leadership.  No longer are pure results in business, politics and sport the only measure of a leader’s effectiveness and legacy.  It’s now much more about how these results are achieved. Are leaders capable of meeting organisational performance goals whilst fostering an inclusive and sustainable environment to pass onwards?

Executive Search firm Korn Ferry captures this neatly:

“To create the momentum to become an inclusive organisation, change needs to happen fast, and at scale—with a positive impact on everyone. It all starts with inclusive leaders. Leaders who can connect emotionally with their teams. Who are culturally agile. Who are curious. Who can bring together the diversity of their organisation’s talent to make better decisions.”

This article considers the six traits of inclusive leadership from a personal perspective, assessing my own performance and progression over 14 years of running an agile and successful UK-based SME, and invites the reader to consider his or her own capabilities against these traits. 

The Six Traits of Inclusive Leadership

Diagram of the six traits of inclusive leadership

1) Cognisance

What is it?

Cognisance is being aware of your own unconscious bias. That might be towards people, or indeed regarding the way you run a business – including harbouring organisational blind spots. Recognising and being aware of this can help lead a business towards a better DE&I balance.


As a white, middle-class male approaching the wrong end of my forties I am very aware that I carry a host of biases – some conscious, some not.  Over recent years I have tried to reflect more on these before making important decisions, including hiring, strategy and investment. I have tried to rely more on data to drive decisions rather than instinct.  

In tougher times, however, I find that instinct takes over somewhat, and these instincts are no doubt shaped by the biases I carry. 6/10

2) Curiosity

What is it?

Growth is driven by varied experiences, which allow for growth. A highly inclusive leader has the desire to gather different perspectives in terms of how other people experience and view the world, and will challenge themselves to attend other events and encounter other experiences in order to leave their comfort zone and learn more.


Improvement is needed here too.  For a small firm, we have a very international workforce, something which has really helped us to learn and improve.  We do not yet have the same level of diversity in social demographics or ethnicity – areas in which we must do more to become more inclusive.  I am also a completer/finisher rather than an innovator, another bias that inhibits me on this front. In good times it is very easy to double down on a profitable niche at the expense of broader learning. 5/10

3) Courage

What does this mean in business?

Talking about one’s own imperfections requires courage. As does being honest about strengths and weaknesses; being open, and working with team members to enhance performance.


Courage is one of the core company values at Freshminds and I feel we have done well to create an environment and culture in which individual, team and company imperfections can be aired out of a desire for improvement. 

Strengths and praise are much easier to highlight than imperfections and constructive feedback however – there is always room for self-improvement of the latter, as well as better reflection through the business. 8/10

4) Cultural Intelligence

What is it?

Linked to Curiosity (2) above: to achieve successful leader status, it’s essential to be both effective and confident in cultural knowledge. Who are you leading within your organisation, and to whom are you selling or interacting? What is important to them? What motivates them?


Working abroad for a couple of years and feeling something of an outsider has helped me here and is something I would thoroughly recommend to others.(I appreciate that working abroad is maybe more complicated to arrange now, but that’s another article!)  

The Freshminds’ client, candidate and employee engagement surveys help us get closer to our key stakeholders but there’s no doubt there are individuals who would like to be treated differently, and whose culture and viewpoints have not been properly considered. Making the time to be constantly learning here is so important, but I find it challenging to do it consistently. 7/10 

5) Commitment

What is it?

Highly inclusive leaders tend to be dedicated to diversity and inclusion since these objectives line up with their own values. Refresh your memory about one area of DE&I in our recent Freshminds article about Women in Banking.


Structure, frameworks and measures are really important here so that in times of rapid growth, change or disruption DE&I does not fall too far down the Board agenda or disappear from it altogether. Our work to achieve the ‘Great Place to Work’ accolade and our subsequent pursuit of B-Corp status has helped us stay true to our goals, but we are also guilty of doubling down on clients, sales and fees to the detriment of our DE&I objectives when trading is tough. 6.5/10

6) Collaboration

What is it?

The most successful leaders make others feel empowered. They also create a positive environment to leverage and enable the thoughts of diverse groups. Finally, an inclusive leader knows that individuals are at their most collaborative when they are able to contribute in a supportive space, with no fear of embarrassment.  


I think this is genuinely a strong area for me and Freshminds as a whole. Where I might have been competitive with peers earlier in my career, I now very much want to surround myself with the best, most diverse, collaborative and empowered team.  

It makes everyone more fulfilled, and successful and increases our enjoyment from all the time we spend at work together.  It is simply a win-win. 8/10


It feels right that the bar for inclusive, effective leadership continues to rise.  Every leader should be striving to do better across all facets of a leadership or senior management role – and inclusivity is certainly a key facet.  

To do this when a business is thriving or in a steady state is one thing, to maintain this focus in times of broader business difficulty is quite another. This is where wider governance structures, Boards (exec or advisory), membership groups (GPTW/B-Corp) and shareholders can play an important role too in maintaining a wider set of goals and measures for leaders across all seasons. 

 I will take away from this exercise a determination to do better on DE&I, and to do this more consistently. The closer that DE&I can be brought to the heart of business strategy, surely the better for all concerned.

About the Author

Adam Clements is a Managing Director at Freshminds. Adam is responsible for running the business, with a notable focus on our pool of experienced strategy and management consulting candidates, deployed through Consultants on demand. He works particularly closely with our sporting, retail and consulting clients. To speak to Adam about your business challenge, or for more details about Freshminds, contact him here.

Image 2022 02 25 T07 42 12

Stay in the know

Get the latest business insights, news and events, straight to your inbox.

Image 2022 02 25 T07 41 52

This site is not supported by Internet Explorer. Please use Chrome, Firefox, Safari or another browser to fully view and utilise.