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What does inclusive leadership look like? How can you drive better cultures?

R/GA London’s Rebecca Bezzina and Kate Thrumble on how to create healthy, hybrid teams with empathy and resilience.

Rebecca Bezzina

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Inclusive leadership is about creating environments where people can really bring their best selves to work. Ultimately, this is everyone’s job - but leadership plays an important role in fostering these environments for people.   

At R/GA our company purpose is to create a more human future. This is not just for the brands and businesses we work with - but for our overarching approach to talent. We have enjoyed much success and got many learnings around how we drive an improved workplace culture over the past few years - even with hybrid teams - using the methods below.  

Empathy is everything 

This is possibly the most important thing in the world today as a leader. Empathy is the driving force behind better: 

  • Innovation
  • Engagement
  • Retention
  • Work-life navigation
  • Inclusivity for talent

The ability to relate at both a human and professional level is vital. This is what provides psychological safety for people and teams alike.

Leading by example 

While this might seem an obvious concept - the value of leaders showing up as themselves cannot be underestimated. The era of leaders putting on a mask is over - authenticity is key to being able to lead with both head and heart. 

R/GA’s fully hybrid model ensures that employees feel trusted. They are in control of when they want to connect in person - and when working from home is the better option. Providing every employee with this level of flexibility is crucial.

The era of leaders putting on a mask is over - authenticity is key to being able to lead with both head and heart

Rebecca Bezzina, SVP MD, R/GA London and Kate Thrumble, Executive Director Talent, R/GA London

Our individual coaching sessions - run across the business - offer bespoke assistance to each of our leaders. And R/GA’s working parents have the ability to take advantage of Bubble, a scheme that provides them with the peace of mind that they have back-up child care available when life gets a little chaotic. 

Listen to learn - and understand

This is a leaders’ biggest superpower. The art of active listening requires work and dedication. Too often leaders listen to respond - rather than listen to understand. Leaders can use active listening to develop a deeper understanding of their teams. Even the most simple activity - such as checking in on an anniversary - can help nurture organic empathy

Output trumps working patterns

Creating a healthy hybrid team requires different skills compared to those required when leading from the same physical space. Empathy, trust, collaboration - these are all cornerstones of a successful hybrid working model. Insight and data also have to be factored into the equation. But these should not be prioritised ahead of the human element.

Cultural intelligence

Companies are currency waged in an intense war on talent - diversifying the hiring process has to be high on a leader's agenda. 

Leadership - when widening the net they are throwing into the talent pool - must take both emotional and cultural intelligence into account. The traditional ‘rinse and repeat’ model no longer achieves the desired results. Leaders have to be constantly listening and learning in the workplace to improve this process. 

R/GA’s cultural collectives are groups that are set-up by employees and more importantly run by employees. These can be centred around: 

  • Passion
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • Family

We recognise that inclusive culture isn’t just about how we foster diversity and inclusion within the c-suite. We strive to help employees embrace every aspect of their own culture. This could involve - for example - allowing people to swap a bank holiday for a religious holiday they observe.

Manage careers and understand personal passions

Improving workplace culture relies on driving a deeper understanding in employees - they need to recognise where they fit into the bigger picture. 

Understanding them from a professional perspective simply doesn’t suffice. Getting to know what someone is interested in outside of their working life is important - this gives the business a foundation to offer better, tailored support. 

Modern leadership in the 21st Century is built on kindness. Companies should be focused on fostering a positive workplace environment. This is a recipe which relies on three critical ingredients: effective communication, psychological safety and growth opportunities. Achieve a healthy balance between these - and retaining talent will become much easier for your business. 

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Guest Author

Rebecca Bezzina

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Rebecca Bezzina, SVP MD, R/GA London (pictured) and Kate Thrumble, Executive Director Talent, R/GA London jointly wrote this article as part the Creative Equals RISE trend report.

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