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t’s Monday morning, and it’s time to trade in your mohawk for a more

‘palatable’ comb-over. Your latest tattoo (a mandala that inspires you to dream) is neatly tucked away under your crisp white shirt. Ankle bracelet removed, you push your standard-issue beige socks into black loafers. It’s time to switch off your inner self and turn on your corporate persona. Successful businesses are

‘innovative’ and ‘creative’. Tey ‘do things differently’, or claim to. Te driving force behind this success is a company’s employees – those who enter the product incubator daily in order to turn ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’ into verbs. Quite often, however, we expect out-of-the-box thinking, yet expunge any form of expression. How can we expect staff to reach their full potential, if we won’t allow them to bring their authentic selves to the table? Few companies will admit to any form of racial, gender or other bias. But in focusing on compliance, have we lost sight of inclusion? It’s easy to pay lip service to

collaboration when those around the boardroom table all conform to our homogeneous version of what a team member ‘should’ look like. Critically, even great work environments (and their dress codes) put a lid on authenticity. Changing this will require managers to get comfortable with ‘different’ – and the acceptance of several key principles.

Authenticity is not only good for people

Te corporate world is fraught with categorisation – a sorting of who is good enough to play which role. Companies aren’t allowed to make discrimination a part of that categorisation. But human nature dictates that what we see shapes what we think. And what we think, in turn, filters how we see. Te alchemy of perception is difficult to dissolve; making the mistake of assuming that our percep- tions reflect the truth, even more so. In reality, there is a difference

between a mohawk and a comb-over. It’s called authenticity, and in the workplace, a Journal of Happiness study1

has found that the greater an

employee’s feelings of authenticity, the better their job satisfaction, engage- ment and self-reported performance. Another study, cited by Harvard Business Review, 2

involving 213

employees, saw a very clear theme emerge: being allowed the freedom to be authentic improves productivity, increases performance and success, and allows employees to exert less energy and time censoring or hiding themselves. Similarly, employees who spent less time and energy on ‘self-monitoring’ had more time and energy for focusing on the task at hand. Authenticity is not only good for people, it’s good for business, too.

Difference is not division Sadly, those who are ‘out of whack’ with what’s perceived to be corporate are often seen as disruptive, and often by the very people who are responsible for supporting their careers. Different shouldn’t ever be disrespectful. It’s quite the opposite, actually, as it recognises an important truth: we

strongly agree that their manager actively seeks out information and new ideas from all employees to guide their decision making – a key capability of inclusive leaders. And Australian workers from culturally diverse backgrounds are up to three times less likely to experience their workplaces as inclusive,” says the website. Tis, effectively, means organisa-

tions are missing out on the benefits of inclusive leadership. Te Council

described just some of these: ``

Profit and performance. Inclusive environments are associated with improved job and/or team performance, as well as higher return on income and productivity.

` `

Innovation. Teams with inclusive climates have higher levels of innovation and profit. Having a flexible rather than fixed view of one’s own and others’ identity – a key attribute of inclusive leadership – is associated with greater creativity and improved innovation.

` `

We expect out-of-the-box thinking, yet expunge any form of expression

can be united, yet not the same. Tat said, the caveat of balancing authenticity with a healthy respect for the people you are doing business with still applies. Te challenge for many organisa-

tions is “How do we support managers to lead with difference at the forefront of their minds?” Diversity Council Australia’s research3

sheds light on the

need for inclusive leadership and what it takes to build more inclusive leaders. Importantly, inclusive leadership

isn’t built overnight. Leaders have a responsibility to improve their inclusive leadership capabilities by honing a mindset that focuses on diversity and inclusion, while at the same time bal- ancing client needs and expectations. “Leaders are critical to the success of D&I initiatives but there is a lack of inclusive leadership capabilities among Australian managers,” says the Council. “Earlier DCA research found only 11 per cent of Australian workers

Engagement and opportunity. Inclusive leadership is associated with greater team engagement, while individuals working in more inclusive team climates report higher levels of commitment and satisfaction, and demonstrate access to better job opportunities and career advancement.

` `

Wellbeing. Inclusion is associated with a higher sense of employee wellbeing and psychological safety, as well as employees feeling valued and respected. Exclusion is associated with emotional exhaustion, which in turn impacts on turnover intentions.

` `

Productive conflict. In inclusive teams, employees are better able to resolve conflict and be more satisfied as a result of having worked through the conflict effectively. Inclusion is linked to productive resolution and integration of differing viewpoints.

` `

Legal risk. In inclusive climates, individuals from traditionally marginalised groups experience lower levels of harassment and discrimination. More advanced attitudes about social identity – a key attribute of inclusive leadership – are linked to more positive inter-cultural group relations and less cultural bias.

` `

Talent costs. Inclusion and inclusive leadership are both associated with reduced turnover. Indeed, workplaces

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