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Leiden Leadership Centre

Current Projects

Below you can find information about the research projects on public leadership of the public management research group at the Institute of Public Administration.

What are determinants of inclusive leadership? An interview study among 30 public managers shows that a personal conviction of the added value of diversity is related to inclusive leadership. In addition, managers are more likely to strive for an inclusive work environment when team members need to work together to achieve team goals. However, there are several obstacles in the organizational context. For example, it is more difficult for managers to enact inclusive leadership when the span of control is high. With little or no diversity in the team or the department, or when there is no concrete link between diversity and the team tasks, managers indicate that they are not consciously concerned with inclusiveness.

The importance of inclusive leadership

With the diversity in society and organizations, much attention is paid to ensuring inclusiveness in organizations: a work environment valuing individuals’ unique contribution and treating them as insiders in the team and organization. A crucial factor that can contribute to inclusiveness is inclusive leadership. Inclusive leadership focuses on stimulating the appreciation and exchange of different backgrounds, perspectives and ideas that team members have. In addition, an inclusive leader ensures that there is a safe environment in the team where everyone can participate and their voices are heard. Previous research shows that inclusive leadership is crucial for supporting an inclusive work climate in ethnic-culturally diverse teams. However, we do not yet know enough under which conditions inclusive leadership is established and what is necessary to further develop it.

Research project on inclusive leadership

In the LUF project: “What does it take to be an inclusive leader? Unravelling determinants of inclusive leadership in public organizations” we aim to gain more insight into the determinants of inclusive leadership. From previous research we know that both personal characteristics and contextual factors play a crucial role for leadership.

During March-April 2020, approximately 30 interviews were held with managers spread across two central government organizations (a ministry and executive organization). The aim was to find out what motives managers have when it comes to diversity and inclusiveness and what role the organizational context plays in this.

Research findings 

Although the research is not yet fully completed, there are already some interesting findings. Managers often indicate that they define diversity is a broad sense (i.e. all possible aspects that make an individual unique, with a focus on functional background and personality). A number of managers actually spoke of specific underrepresented groups and the help they need to get started (people with a distance to the job market). The latter is often motivated by model role the government has and the pursuit of representation.

Managers who are themselves convinced of the added value of diversity (in a broad sense), also ensure that their teams are composed in a diverse way and also stimulate cooperation within the team. In such teams, leaders use self-tests to help team members understand their work attitudes and behaviours that play a role in the team. In addition, managers explicitly are open to the voices of the minority. This help them and the team to remain critical and prevent groupthink.

Different motives play a role. Being a reflection of society and the exemplary function of the government are more often linked to the representation of underrepresented groups (e.g. women and people with a migration background). Societal challenges and responding better to a changing society and the complexity associated with it, is more related to the broad definition of diversity and in some cases also aimed at young people.

Some public managers also said that as a manager you sometimes have to dare to take risks, think out of the box, and not want a clone of yourself. At the same time, they also indicate that many of their colleagues do not so because they emphasize security and consistency with a focus on efficiency.

A number of managers indicate that they are not consciously dealing with diversity and inclusiveness. A number of factors play a role here: the lack of diversity in the team or department, day to day business, not seeing a concrete link with the activities of the team, distance to the team and span of control.

In an organizational context where there is little or no diversity, managers do not experience that diversity and inclusiveness are on the agenda and are therefore not consciously involved. In some situations, managers indicate that they are not concerned with diversity and inclusiveness because it is not relevant to the work of their team. For these managers, the subject of diversity and inclusiveness is more linked to improving the representation of certain groups of employees.

Span of control is about the number of employees that a manager is responsible for. In some cases, managers are responsible for teams that work in different locations and often in shifts (especially in the executive organization) or are responsible for more than 30 employees, often not with team leaders or coordinators as an intermediate layer. These factors make it more difficult for them to demonstrate inclusive leadership.

To conclude

The believe in the added value of diversity is linked to inclusive leadership. In addition, in an organizational context where teamwork is central and team members depend on each other's input, managers strive for an inclusive work environment. However, there are also factors in the organizational context that may hinder inclusive leadership, such as distance from the team and span of control.

The second phase

Based on the qualitative study, a questionnaire was also sent via Flitspanel in the central and local government sectors. The results of this survey will be published in mid-August / early September.

Unravelling determinants of inclusive leadership in public organizations

The ‘Leids Universiteits Fonds’ (LUF) award grants to research and educational project in various academic fields once a year. In 2019, dr. Tanachia Ashikali received a grant to conduct an in-depth study into the determinants of inclusive leadership in public organisations: What does it take to be an inclusive leader? Unravelling determinants of inclusive leadership in public organizations.

In order to improve their services, more and more public organisations are striving towards creating an inclusive work environment. Inclusive leadership contributes towards this goal by fostering a work environment where employees feel free to express themselves, can work together effectively in a team, and identify with the organisation. However, little is known under which conditions inclusive leadership is formed and how it can be further developed. This project aims to gain more insight in the antecedents of inclusive leadership. We know from scientific research that both personal traits as well as contextual factors affects leadership. For this project, the focus will be on gender, ethnic cultural diversity, and managerial diversity beliefs. Organisational influences such as structure, culture, and organisation of work will be taken into account as possible explanatory factors. In a first phase, in-depth interviews with managers in several public organisations will be held to explore the various personal and organisational factors that may impede or stimulate showcasing inclusive leadership. In the second phase, the various obtained factors and an assessment of inclusive leadership will be used in a survey and distributed among a representative group of managers within the public sector. Using this data, the resulting propositions on the influence of various factors of inclusive leadership will be tested by using statistical analyses. 

How leaders’ context influences leadership

How does the context of public leaders affects leadership? Instead of trying to explain organisational outcomes, the research project contributes to our understanding of how public leadership itself is shaped within the university sector. The studies will shed light on leaders’ perceptions of their context and role and on situation-sensitive leadership adaptation to develop theory.

Moniek Akerboom, Johan Jan Beukman en Lara van Osch conduct their PhD research within the research project Furthering Public Leadership. Continue reading here

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