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Inclusive vs Transformational Leadership: Are They the Same?

When people think of inclusive leadership vs transformational leadership, they often think of these types in isolation. Inclusive leaders help bring diverse people together and transformational leaders help transform an organization for the better, right? But could it be that inclusive leaders can transform an organization, and transformational leaders can ensure inclusion?

In reality, both these styles are intertwined and work together to ensure leadership success in the office. They share attributes like building trust, leading with integrity, and allowing diverse ideas to co-exist. There are also some differences, but individuals can have a win-win situation by combining the attributes of the two. A leader that combines these two forms of leadership will certainly be a force to behold. 

If you want to achieve greatness and become and delve into the inclusive vs transformational leadership debate, continue reading ahead. 

What Is Inclusive Leadership?

Inclusive leaders are aware of their biases and make a conscious effort to consider different perspectives and make decisions accordingly. Over the last decade, society has evolved a great deal. There is much more acceptance of diverse opinions now than there was ever before. However, how much of this change trickled down to the organizations? Sadly, not much. Inclusive leadership is still very rare. 

Inclusive leadership helps bring balance to a diverse workplace. Inclusive leaders have the ability to put aside their biases and prejudice and treat people on their individual merits. They can also be quite nonjudgmental and accepting when dealing with people of different origins, ethnicities, religions, and gender. 

Moreover, inclusive leaders can have and appreciate a range of different perspectives and make a decision that looks at the bigger picture of things. Where exclusive leaders focus on myopic reasons, inclusive leaders can see beyond the obvious. However, that is not the whole story. There is so much more to it. Read ahead to know more. 

Also Read About: 12 Key Differences Between Exclusive and Inclusive Leadership

What Are the Top Qualities of Inclusive Leaders?

There are many different qualities that are associated with inclusive leadership. However, Deloitte gave the most concrete list of the top qualities of inclusive leaders.

  • They back all the inclusion and diversity positive policies that exist within an organization.
  • They are team players: you can rely on them to have the team’s back through thick and thin.
  • They understand cultural norms associated with diverse cultures and possess cultural sensitivity
  • They are aware of the biases and prejudices that may influence their decisions and are wary of them.
  • They are not afraid to showcase their vulnerability and accept their mistakes. 
  • They are great at communication and make an extra effort to listen to their employees
  • They are not old-fashioned and fight against traditional, autocratic leadership styles. 

What Are the Components of Inclusive Leadership?

Some of the components of inclusive leadership that are present in all-inclusive leaders include: 

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Mindful of gatekeepers
  • Weave diversity
  • Commitment to positive hierarchical change
  • Balanced approach towards well-being of employees and results
  • Acknowledgment of others contribution
  • Identifiers of missing perspective

How Can Leaders Become Truly Inclusive?

Becoming an inclusive leader takes a conscious effort on your part. Here are some steps you need to follow if you want to be a truly inclusive leader. 

  • Let go of internal biases and prejudices
  • Build strong foundations that are based on morals
  • Educate yourself and develop social awareness
  • Work on your emotional intelligence and be kind
  • Share credit and give recognition where it’s due
  • Support your employees through thick and thin
  • Listen like a leader who cares
  • Be humane and don’t treat employees as secondary humans
  • Appreciate discourse and diverse opinions
  • Don’t shy away from admitting mistakes
  • Aspire for a good societal change
  • Prioritize the role and involvement of HR

1) Let Go of Internal Biases and Prejudices

The first thing you need to do to become an inclusive leader realizes that you too can have very biased and subjective opinions about people, or entire groups. Most people feel that they are educated and aware of the world around them. They start believing that they are free from any prejudice. This is never the case. 

The important thing is to accept one’s drawbacks and work towards minimizing these internal biases as best as possible. So when dealing with people from different groups and different ethnicities, you need to make a conscious effort to judge people on their merit and not on the stereotypical opinions about them. This is how leaders can bring diverse people together

2) Build Strong Foundations That Are Based on Morals

When you start your journey as a leader, the first thing you want to do is prove yourself and your expertise to your employees. The five new leader assimilation steps can help you do that. However, there is something else that you need to prioritize. 

For starters, identify the missing links in your organization. See the loopholes and figure out why employees are not happy and list down the problems they are having. Then, take your team a few steps back and work with them to build stronger foundations. 

These should be based on exceptional morals and ethical values. Make sure you integrate values like honesty, integrity, compassion, and kindness in the workplace from the start. It will save you a lot of trouble later. 

3) Educate Yourself and Develop Social Awareness

If you talk to the most popular and revered scholars of today, they will always be in need of more knowledge. This is not because they lack it; they realize that the only way to grow is to continuously improve. Inclusive leaders need to educate themselves on different social issues. These include racism, Islamophobia, white privilege, etc. 

Developing social awareness is key because now these leaders understand why people behave as they do. This gives them a new perspective on how to deal with people from diverse backgrounds. These often help leader bring improve employee performance and change the world for the better. 

4) Work on Your Emotional Intelligence and Be Kind

The world is obsessed with improving its Intelligence Quotient. Although this is important, it rarely helps you become an exemplary and inclusive leader. According to many studies, inclusive leaders are both compassionate and kind. They treat others humanely and are not disrespectful toward people who come from diverse backgrounds. 

Learning emotional intelligence is not easy. But the struggle is worth the effort. Here are some ways in which this can help you. 

  • Helps you build stronger relationships
  • Helps you reduce team stress
  • Improves employee performance and employee retention
  • Increases connectivity between leader and employee
  • Helps you defuse conflict in complicated situations

5) Share Credit and Give Recognition Where It’s Due

Imagine how you would feel if you put your heart and soul into a project only to have your leader take all the credit for your work. It can disappoint you and even take away your motivation to work better in the future. This is why inclusive leaders are very considerate when it comes to giving recognition. 

A good leader realizes that no victory, small or big, comes from one individual alone. It always requires a team effort. If you want to become an inclusive leader, make sure you celebrate small wins with your team and give recognition to everyone who put in the extra effort. 

Apart from doing justice to your team, it also helps motivate other employees to do better and yearn for that validation and encouragement in the future. All in all, it will be a win-win situation for you and your organization. 

6) Support Your Employees Through Thick and Thin

Personal can often clash with the professional. Human beings are not machines; they will have things going on in their personal life that may affect their performance from time to time. This may include the death or sickness of a loved one, health crises, or financial burdens. It is your job as an inclusive leader to lend a hand to your employees. 

However, this is not to say that you should become extremely lenient. A good leader can assess the situation and tell when the employee has a genuine concern or issue and when the employee is simply making an excuse. 

Leaders who support their employees through difficult times end up gaining their trust for a lifetime. And trust in leadership is integral to the success of any leader. 

7) Listen Like a Leader Who Cares

Inclusive leadership vs transformational leadership

There are two leaders, Aman and Natalie, who are running two separate organizations. Both have similar personalities and skills. Both make an extra effort to inculcate the five practices of exemplary leadership in their roles. However, the way they communicate with their employees is quite different. 

While Aman has deep knowledge about each one of his employees, Natalie only has surface-level knowledge. Aman holds regular meetings with his team and gives them space to express their concerns. He listens like a leader who cares about the well-being of his employees. He is hence well-respected and loved in his organization. 

Natalie also wanted to come across as a good leader, however, she operates under a facade. She only acts as if she cares, but ends up dismissing the concerns of her employees. Who do you think makes a more inclusive and successful leader?

Also Read About:  Tips to Help You Listen Like a Leader

8) Be Humane and Don’t Treat Employees as Secondary Humans

Mistakes are part and parcel of life. Even the most steady and consistent employee can mess up sometimes. People are not machines, and they should not be treated as such. Although leaders need to ensure good productivity, they also need to treat humans with respect. Treating them as a mere commodity will not do you good. 

For starters, leaders tend to replace employees quite easily. This is common in areas where employees are simply treated as a means to an end. The issue with such an approach is that it makes your employees become “quite quitters”. They lose any motivation or inspiration to do more for the company. They will not put their blood and sweat into the success of the company. 

If you want to make people work well, make sure you respect them and acknowledge them for the efforts they put in. 

9) Appreciate Discourse and Diverse Opinions

One of the easiest ways of differentiating between inclusive and exclusive leaders is to see how they respond to criticism. Even the most educated and experienced leaders can make mistakes and mess up a situation. An important reason why leaders make bad decisions is that they are not welcoming toward diverse opinions. 

They don’t appreciate how diversity and differences of opinion can make a plan foolproof and help the leader guarantee success before the execution of the said plan. Most leaders get offended when they have pointed out flaws in their plans. This approach often gets them in trouble later on. 

10) Don’t Shy Away From Admitting Mistakes

The outside world is unpredictable. Even when you do everything right, it can still mess up your plan. Leaders can fail and still rise above their situation by learning from their mistakes. However, the first step to fixing your mistake is to admit that you made them. Leaders who lack confidence in their own abilities often blame others for their mistakes. 

When you accept your mistakes and take responsibility for your actions, you gain the respect of both your employees and your competitors. This is much more important than playing a dirty game where you find a scapegoat and try to blame others for the drawbacks of your plan. 

11) Prioritize the Role and Involvement of HR

Most companies have a Human Resources department. However, most of these HR departments hold no real power. They are not given the proper resources and authority to conduct surveys and interact with employees to gauge them. They have authority on paper, but they can not make important decisions around the office. 

Inclusive leaders empower HR departments and help them get rid of toxic environments in the workplace. HR helps create an inclusive and powerful equity policy that holds people accountable when they engage in harassment, bullying, or inappropriate behavior in the workplace. 

A solid HR department will also have the authority to hold the leaders at the top accountable. 

12) Aspire for a Good Societal Change

It is good to make business savvy decisions. It is important that all types of leaders focus on results and outcomes. However, wouldn’t it be great if the leaders can also bring about some positive social change while leading a team? But this doesn’t happen randomly; it requires a conscious effort. 

So, for instance, leaders who want to introduce paper straws in their consumer business can do this for two reasons. One: plastic straws are expensive and not worth their money. Second: paper straws don’t harm the environment. When business decisions are taken keeping in mind the good of the company as well as the society at large, they tend to be more successful. 

What Is the Impact of Inclusive Leadership?

1. It fosters long-term connections

2. It allows for greater creativity and innovation

3. It ensures collaboration and commitment

4. It enhances the reputation of the company

5. It allows employees to surpass targets

6. It is a requirement for the changing world

7. It enhances employee retention

8. It ensures an equitable environment for all

9. It brings diversity and change

10. It creates new leaders

What Is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership is associated with both short term and long term change happening in an organization. It fosters a shift in company culture, so the environment becomes more hospitable for everyone. Additionally, it allows leader to be more accountable for their actions and the employees to take greater accountability for their actions.

What Are the 4 Types of Transformational Leadership?

Sam Walton, one of the most popular transformational leaders and the founder of Walmart, gave ‘rules for success in his autobiography. He came up with four I’s of transformational leadership. Here is a brief description of each. 

1. Idealized Influence

This is used to indicate managerial qualities that make them exemplary role models for their employees and associates. Leaders who possess idealized influence are trustworthy and respected among their peers. They are also known for making very good decisions for the employees and the organization. 

2. Inspirational Motivation

As the name suggests, inspirational motivation refers to managers who can motivate their associates and bring them to commit to the superior vision of the organization. These leaders can inspire others and encourage their associates to exceed expectations. Moreover, they ensure increased market revenue and growth for the organization. 

3. Intellectual stimulation

This refers to leaders who can challenge others to rethink and reassess their beliefs and views on a particular topic. These leaders can induce creativity and innovative spirit in their associates. Additionally, these leaders prioritize critical thinking and problem-solving and can hence make an organization exceed results. 

4. Individual Consideration

This describes leaders who don’t just focus on themselves and the organization, but also act as coaches and mentors for their employees. They encourage and empower their associates, so they can reach their goals smoothly. Additionally, these leaders help employees reach their full potential. 

How Can Leaders Become Transformational?

  • Build trust that lasts
  • Encourage and empower others
  • Act with integrity and honor
  • Innovate and encourage others to innovate
  • Coach and develop others
  • Transform culture gradually 
  • Be a mentor and teacher
  • Influence beyond your authority
  • Give greater consideration to your peers
  • Put in more effort and time
  • Demonstrate shared goals and purpose
  • Decide on a purpose and stick to it

1. Build Trust That Lasts

You can kick-start your leadership journey by following a few simple steps. However, you need to retain that success by building long-lasting trust. Research indicates that trust in leadership is essential for leaders who want to inspire and bring about change in an organization. 

There are a couple of ways you can do this. For starters, make sure you are consistent in your personality. Your employees need to find you reliable and trustworthy before they can give you their unconditional consent and loyalty. Make sure to not waver in your attributes according to the situation. No one likes someone who is honest, friendly, and outspoken one day and rude, dishonest, and aloof the next. 

2. Encourage and Empower Others

Transformational leaders have the ability to not only encourage their employees but also empower them, so they can achieve their full potential. This only comes from a secure place where the leader is confident in themselves enough to not feel threatened by someone else’s greatness.

To encourage and empower, you have to spend time with your employees, assess their individual capacities and talents, and then motivate them accordingly. For example, if you think that your employee Sam is great at handling logistics, you can assign him more tasks that hone his organizational and planning skills. 

Through this exercise, everyone in your department will be able to make the most of their potential. 

3. Act With Integrity and Honor

What leaders lack in experience and skill, they can make up in personality traits. People who are not honorable don’t get ahead in life, and that is true for leaders than anyone else. People who are honorable and have integrity tend to invoke respect and loyalty from the most reluctant of people. 

However, these traits don’t just magically appear. You have to make a conscious effort to honor your word, even when it is difficult. Imagine a scenario where you gave some of your employees a holiday. You then notice that the last-minute order has arrived. Would you honor your word and let them go home, or have them work against their will?

4. Innovate and Encourage Others to Innovate

You can’t have transformation if you remain stagnant. And that is exactly the problem with most organizations and the leaders heading those organizations. People are so fixated on the past that they don’t look forward to new opportunities. Transformational leadership requires constant innovation and growth. 

This innovation comes when you give your employees the freedom to experiment and present different ideas. Rather than rejecting them outrightly, make sure to encourage your team to improve on their ideas. Only through the process of trial and error will you be able to truly transform an organization. 

5. Challenge the Status Quo

Transformational leaders are not ones to follow orders mindlessly. They are aware of the market situation and make decisions accordingly. However, they don’t flow with the tides. They tend to challenge the status quo and aim to revolutionize the market. Take the example of Elon Musk. There are many influential people with tons of money. However, only a transformational leader like him could envision something so great as creating a habitat on Mars. 

If you want to be an exemplary leader, don’t be afraid of the opposition. Take it head-on and deal with what comes. Moreover, once you have your team backing you, challenging the status quo won’t seem too difficult. 

6. Look For a Gradual Cultural Change

Aspirations are good. You should always think big, but being unrealistic is not an option for transformational leaders. When you embark on this journey of transforming an organization, the market, or the society you live in, make sure to start with small steps and celebrate small wins. This not only motivates your team but also prevents exhaustion. 

People who are impatient and want to achieve great things in very less time often fall back on their heads. They chase unrealistic goals and end up disappointing, not just themselves, but also the people who follow them. So make sure you go from A to B to C, and don’t jump from A to Z directly. 

7. Be a Mentor and Teacher

Imagine two people: Samia and Adam, leading two separate organizations. Samia is a great leader who does everything right. She makes all the right decisions and her company is flourishing. She spends a considerable amount of time interacting with her employees and teaching them new ways to improve. Adam is also a good leader, but he works on self-improvement and does not care about teaching or mentoring others. 

Out of the two leaders, who do you think inspires a long-term change? Samia will be able to leave behind a number of transformational leaders even when she leaves that organization. Her mentorship and guidance will create a ripple effect that will benefit the generations to come, thus making her a truly transformational leader. 

8. Influence Beyond Your Authority

Leadership should not be caged inside the walls of an organization. If your message and your vision are only known to a couple of employees, you are not a transformational leader. To do great things, you need to get out there and expose yourself. Your influence needs to be spread as far as possible. This may sound like a challenge, but it isn’t. 

To influence beyond your authority, make sure you increase your social media and paper media presence. Put your opinions out there for the world to see. Let people engage with you. This not only generates discourse, but also allows people to get behind you on your vision. You will be amazed to know just how much a little social media presence can help you. 

9. Improve Your Relationship With Your Competitors

This may seem like weird advice, but it is actually one of the best ways to transform the market. Leaders who are always out there to get their peers and competitors end up failing miserably. This is because an approach that is dependent on putting others down is wrong, to begin with. Not just morally, but it takes your focus away from your own shortcomings. You will try to make the other look bad and not focus on ways to make yourself look better. 

So to fix this, make sure you engage and interact with your competitors, learn from them and become a better leader yourself. By studying their methods, you can also fix your shortcomings and become an even bigger brand. But most importantly, these connections are important because they will help you sooner or later in some way or the other. 

10. Put In More Effort and Time

You can not think of transformation if you are not willing to give it your all. All world leaders, be it George Washington, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, or Abraham Lincoln, were workaholics. They envisioned something, and then put their mind and soul into achieving their dreams. They rarely cared about resting or other mindless activities. 

This is not to say that leaders should burn themselves down. It simply means that leaders need to prioritize their work, for the first couple of years. If you are doing the bare minimum and not putting in extra time and effort to get your employees and followers on board, you might as well forget about transforming anything. 

11. Demonstrate Shared Goals and Purpose

Whether it’s something small as a cultural similarity, or something huge, like a similar class, you need to find shared goals and purposes that can bring a whole community together. Acknowledging these similarities does not mean you are rejecting the many, many differences. It simply means that you have to convince people that the shared goal takes a priority over the differences. 

Leaders can bring diverse people together by simply focusing on the things that are similar. For example, if a leader wants the employees to prioritize sales, he can convince employees that good sales will increase the company’s reputation which will in turn look good on their resumes. These little things can put the most reluctant of people on board. 

12. Decide on a Purpose and Stick To It

Consistency may seem counterintuitive to people who want to transform a place. Leaders may want to constantly change and improve themselves. And they should, however, there are some things that require unwavering consistency. A leader needs to have a fixed and well-thought of purpose in mind before they try to get everyone else on board. 

If your mission, your vision, and your desire for the final outcome keep changing, it will become really difficult for people to support you and trust you. They will find you unpredictable and untrustworthy: two attributes that prevent people from following you. 

What Is the Impact of Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership does not require you to follow a set of steps in a specific order. It simply lists a number of behaviors that you need to inculcate in your personality, so you can exceed expectations and bring long-term change. 

When leaders follow the four I’s mentioned above, it helps leave a strong impact on the organization and society. Here are some benefits of transformational leadership.

  • Empowers others to do what is best for the organization, therefore increasing revenue and growth for all. 
  • Sets a comfortable and healthy environment for the employees and thus improves the soft image of the company. 
  • Develops a spirit of cooperation and coordination among different groups and different departments. 
  • Helps an organization fulfill its vision in less time. 
  • Acts as a force of change in an otherwise stagnant market. 
  • Improves employee well-being, thus improving employee retention in an organization.

Inclusive Leadership vs Transformational Leadership: Are They Intertwined?

The inclusive leadership vs transformational leadership debate is not new, however, it is becoming redundant nowadays. Transformational leaders acknowledge that they can only ever bring real change if they are also inclusive leaders. They realize that without having a diverse range of people on board, they can not even dream of bringing about any substantial change. 

Similarly, most inclusive leaders realize that in order to change the old ways of thinking and improve the culture within the organization and outside, they also need to integrate the attributes of transformational leaders within their own personalities. 

This is why you will see many inclusive leaders prioritizing innovation and creativity, and many transformational leaders prioritizing good equity policies and excellent communication. 

Become an Inclusive Leader That Transforms With Best Diplomats

If you want to incorporate the attributes of both an inclusive and transformational leader within yourself, you need to register with Best Diplomats. It is an organization that has trained thousands of potential leaders and transformed them into exemplary leaders. 

Inclusive leadership vs transformational leadership

Through its conferences happening in Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, New York, and Turkey, it offers you the opportunity to interact and intermingle with a diverse group of people. This not only teaches you amazing people-skills, but also helps hone your communication skills. 

All in all, if you are looking for a comprehensive package that helps you up your game in the real world, look no further. Best Diplomats is here to help you out. 


Contrary to the popular belief, inclusive leadership vs transformational leadership is not a real debate. The two styles are intertwined and, together, help you become an exemplary leader. By focusing on the individual aspects of each, you can not only bring diverse people on the same page, but also work with them to create something absolutely brilliant. 

If you are not sure of where to start, you can always get some amazing guidance from Best Diplomats. It will help you kick-start your journey in no time. 


What Are the Different Styles of Leadership?

There are dozens of different styles of leadership. From the authoritative and autocratic styles of leadership prevalent in the past to transformational leadership styles practiced today. Different cultures prefer different styles of leadership, however, these are the five most popular in the world today. 
1) Delegative leadership
2) Authoritative leadership
3) Transformational leadership
4) Inclusive leadership
5) Participative leadership

What Is the Difference Between Inclusive and Participative Leadership?

Participative leadership, also known as democratic leadership, is when all members of the team have an equal say in the decisions that are made. This happens mostly through voting, where the majority’s opinions and preferences are valued more. On the other hand, inclusive leadership requires the decision-making of one leader who incorporates the opinions of a diverse group of people. However, the final say is reserved with the leader. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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