Article summary of A diversity mindset perspective on inclusive leadership by Van Knippenberg & Van Ginkel - 2022 - Chapter

What is this article about?

This article focuses on team leadership and how a diverse mindset might influence leadership perspectives in a team-based work environment.

Past years observations of team-based work has shown that diverse knowledge, expertise, and perspective can benefit the team and its work, suggesting that diversity should be a core value in team-based work. To achieve those benefits, it is important that team members perceive and acknowledge the additional value of a diverse team.

Team leadership can influence diversity and the team’s perspective upon it. However, research in this area is still limited. Herein, there is a differentiation between inclusive leadership and a leadership for diversity mindset. Inclusive leadership is leading behavior, which aims for a sense of inclusion. Leadership for diversity mindset aims at shaping the team's perception of a diverse team and inclusion.

What has been researched so far in this field?

Earlier research has shown that team diversity can positively impact knowledge and work performance under two conditions. First, possible disruptive tensions are prevented, and second, team members have the necessary motivation and ability to elaborate on team information. Both conditions have to be met. Hereby, focusing on positive performance outcomes can benefit the first condition, as the diverse team member will be seen as an additional value.

What exactly is inclusive leadership?

With regard to leadership, inclusion should be seen as an activity to include the experience of belongingness, as well as a feeling of distinctiveness among group members. Within inclusive leadership, the leader is responsible for creating those feelings among members. Beneficial actions include supporting individual group members, enhancing and encouraging shared decision making and contributions, as well as ensuring fairness. A feeling of belongingness and a feeling of distinctiveness often go hand in hand.

What exactly is leadership for diversity mindsets?

Diverse mindset includes the team's ability to reflect on their understanding of team diversity and how they are planning to proceed with it. This also includes the team members’ perception of their team and work. It is also called “team cognition”. If team members are sharing the same or a similar team cognition, it can be used to achieve shared goals or as a guidance to achieve the goal. Team cognition is related to team diversity climate, referring to team members’ ability to understand possible concerns and perspectives of other team members. Another important aspect of diverse mindset in teams is information elaboration, which is often not given.

A team leader can increase diverse mindset in a team by focusing on and combining all three factors in a dynamic and reflective process.

How can inclusive leadership and diversity mindsets be combined?

Most team members are more focused on finding possible agreements rather than exchanging task relevant information or perspectives. This behavior reduces a possible exchange and integration of unique perspectives. In this setting, inclusive leadership can help by creating the start for information elaboration, by either informing about it, or engaging in this behavior themselves. Team members should be encouraged to include their own and unique point of view to the team and their discussions. While doing so, a diverse mindset can add value for two reasons. First, simply sharing information is not sufficient for information elaboration. Past studies have shown that if unique perspectives are shared in discussion, they often get ignored. To elaborate on unique perspectives it is important that the team members know about the added value of diversity and are willing and motivated to reflect upon it. This results not only in encouring a contribution to a discussion by the leader, but also in encouring team members to see the benefits of a diversity mindset. This can lead to more productive outcomes.

The second reason why a diverse mindset can add value is the independence of the teams engaging in it. Teams which are engaging in information elaboration are more likely to be substantially self-leading as new insights are contributed, of which leaders are often not aware. Hereby, it is important that the information is shared proactively, with focus on team cognition, as described earlier.

Finally, it can be said that a straightforward inclusive leadership, aiming on creating a sense of belongingness and uniqueness sets the base for information elaboration. Belongingness and uniqueness should be viewed and treated as equally valuable for inclusive leadership.

Leadership for diversity mindset can enhance the effectiveness of inclusive leadership and create an inclusive team climate. To enforce that, positive outcomes should be promoted. This in turn also benefits the sense of inclusion, perceiving other team members not as different, but as part of the team.

Inclusive leadership and leadership for diversity mindsets can be combined to an approach of inclusive leadership for diversity mindsets. According to the authors of this article, this term describes leader whos behavior aims at shaping the team’s understanding of value and of information processing as part of realization of the added values.

How can the information of this article be concluded?

The observation in this study has shown that focus of inclusive leadership research was more on the psychological inclusion than on performance outcomes, such as the behavioral act of inclusion. The aim of this study was not to state that team members should not experience a barrier of diversity, but to encourage them to overcome it and to perceive the benefits of diversity.

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