London Borough of Hackney: Inclusive leadership

An example of how a council sought to make a positive culture change through addressing the issue of inclusive leadership.

Hackney Council seeks to develop an inclusive leadership culture to create positive change. It has drawn on an approach to inclusive leadership developed by organisational psychologists Pearn Kandola which focuses on inclusive relationships, decision-making and organisational culture. Managers are encouraged to build diverse networks, create team cohesion and invest time in developing staff. In January 2019 Hackney management team agreed its Corporate Equality Programme.

As part of the Corporate Equality Programme thirty-five inclusion champions were recruited and trained initially to deliver inclusive leadership training to senior managers. A number of the champions have gone on to work with their directors on initiatives to improve workforce diversity in their division and embedding diversity into procurement practices. Hackney Council plans to build on this work in the coming years.

Cultural competency training is also being rolled out to ensure that managers are more confident in engaging with diverse staff and community interests.

As a result, senior management is becoming more reflective of Hackney's diversity with a number of candidates from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds appointed to senior roles. Inclusion champions and community representatives will be involved in the selection of two new group directors, who will be a key part of Hackney’s management team.

Managers generally feel more confident and competent in promoting equality and addressing workforce diversity, though there have been challenges such as managers not being confident in talking about racism or dealing with racist behaviour. There is still work to be done in ensuring transparency in career progression. 

The programme aims to appeal to people's ethics and emotions and not simply to fact and logic. Commitment to the project has been maintained by measuring outcomes, continuous engagement and dialogue and celebrating success. The programme focuses on the role of recruitment in building diversity in teams. Anonymous applications have been introduced and careful thought is given to how roles are designed and promoted and where they are advertised. Strengthening an understanding of equality duties has become a priority in inductions. 

Hackney learned that we can all practice inclusive leadership whether we are directors, team managers or staff. This can mean anything from making sure we check our own bias to making sure our teams are inclusive places, where diversity is genuinely valued. Hackney Council believes local authorities have a duty to promote fairness and equality as employers and service providers and sees this work as a professional necessity to gain and hold the trust of the community. 


Sonia Khan, Head of Policy and Strategic Delivery, Hackney Council, [email protected]