The Foundation of Inclusive Leadership: Self-Awareness and Learning Mindset

The Inclusion Competency model comprises four levels, with the foundational level being Self. It should come as no surprise that this is the foundation of the model, as mastery of the self is a prerequisite for any inclusive behaviour that follows. Achieving mastery requires awareness of how their inner world impacts on the decisions they make, how they react to people who are different, the ability to self-critique, and then continuously learning and growing in response.

Within the Self level, our model has two competencies: Awareness and Learning Mindset.


Awareness in the context of Inclusive Leadership is actually a combination of both self-awareness and awareness of others. Inclusive leaders are aware that people differ from one another which is taken into account in their interactions with them. They recognise the assumptions they and others might make about those who are different. They understand their own identity imposes a particular perspective which may include certain unconscious biases. And, they also are acutely aware of the different needs and styles of others and the need to respect, embrace and guard against exclusion of people who are different.


Learning Mindset

Inclusive leaders build on their awareness with a deep curiosity and learning orientation. This is critical for building on the ideas, perspectives and inputs of others. Diversity to them is an essential tool for growth – they recognise that people can expand their capabilities through experimentation and constructive friction, and approach group problem solving situations with curiosity, humility and a demonstrated willingness to hear other perspectives. The learning mindset enablesleaders to apply what they have learned from past experiences to develop new approaches, actively seeking feedback on their performance and remaining open to new ways of doing things.

Improving your Self Inclusion

The leaders we’ve worked with who are strongest in this space demonstrate a foundation of humility and curiosity. They understand that these values do not diminish their authority or effectiveness, but enhances their ability to connect with others and foster a culture of inclusion. As one leader expressed: “I always try to hear from others first, and not react to disagreeable responses. Everyone has a view or perspective that is built on their experience, which I need to try and understand. I find that once I have heard them, shaped my own thinking, and then can provide them with additional context, we can converge on a better outcome.



Here are some habits you can try to build your capability:


Ask one more question

When you think you have enough information, try asking one additional curious question to find out that little bit more.


See differences of opinion as a learning opportunity

Make yourself open and accessible to those who see the world differently, by regularly inviting their input and deliberately seeking out their opinions.

Seek to understand their lived experience – for example by building comfort through sharing stories of how you grew up.


Cultivate empathy

Put yourself in the shoes of others to understand their perspectives, experiences, and emotions. Empathy fosters deeper connections and promotes a more inclusive environment.


Test your assumptions

Make a conscious effort to identify your assumptions and value judgements. It helps to say them out loud, “My understanding here is based on…” which gives others the opportunity to challenge them.


Lean into discomfort

Growth is the process of getting uncomfortable, making mistakes, and learning from them – and growth is essentially impossible without this process.


Own your difference

Don’t be afraid to be authentic in your own difference and lived experience. As long as you acknowledge your own preconceptions and remain curious, your perspective is a truly valuable one.