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Updated: Apr 6

There is an approach I use in my work offered by Catalyst, in their report ‘Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership’. It proposes the qualities and behaviours needed to build an inclusive workplace culture:

These are great for everyone in an organisation, and there are two more that are specifically for leaders:


The higher up the leadership ladder, the more important are these, and they’re both about relinquishing power.

Too many managers think their job is about No.1. The best leaders know where the real power (No.2) lies – in the energy, knowledge and commitment of ‘ordinary’ staff; they are the real driving force for the machine. The leader’s job is to facilitate that energy.

This is why we need to shift power - from ‘control and influence’, which shuts down diversity and moulds individuals into the manager’s or organisation’s way of thinking and doing, to facilitating energy, which opens up the power of diversity.


Let’s get our hands dirty and look at a real-life examples of shifting power. We go to post-WW2 Britain’s coal mining industry. Pits were nationalised by the new Labour Government in 1946 but they were in a perilous state. How to transform them to rebuild the country? In steps a very modest man – Dr Reg Revans. From first-hand observation down pits and on hospital wards, he saw how pits where managers paid close attention to their men were safer and more efficient, while patients recovered faster when doctors listened to nurses. And from all this came the enduring practice of Action Learning Sets. It is not enough just to appeal to managers to have humility and give more ownership to their team, we need structures and practices like ALS to build it into the culture.

Dr Reg Revans

For a more recent example, Google the word Buurtzorg. It’s a Dutch Healthcare company set up by Jos de Blok. I’ll just give you a teaser with a quote from him:

“There’s this notion that doers can't think strategically, that they lack vision. But the people out doing the work are brimming with ideas. They come up with a thousand things, but don't get heard, because managers think they have to go on some corporate retreat to dream up plans to present to the worker bees.'

He believes that his people are intrinsically motivated professionals and experts on how their job should be done. If only more leaders and managers could understand how to make that shift in power.

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