Inclusive leadership refers to leaders’ positive behaviors that facilitate staff members’ belongingness while honoring their uniqueness within their organizations. Randel et al. (2018) propose multiple pathways through which inclusive leadership affects organizational climate and workforce outcomes. More specifically, they suggest that inclusive leaders will foster workers’ perceptions of an inclusive climate at their organizations, which in turn increases workers’ psychological empowerment. Ultimately, empowering workers can improve their performance outcomes, such as job self-efficacy. This is our first attempt to test this theoretical model of inclusive leadership among child welfare workers. Furthermore, we hypothesize that the impact of inclusive leadership may be greater among racial minority workers because inclusive leaders confront racial discrimination and promote racial equity.
This current study analyzed the Comprehensive Organizational Health Assessment (COHA) survey data designed to assess multidimensional factors that may affect child welfare workforce outcomes. The sample analyzed included 2469 child welfare workers: caseworkers (n = 1979) and supervisors (n = 490). Valid scales were used to measure child welfare workers’ perceptions of inclusive leadership, inclusive climate, psychological empowerment, and job self-efficacy. As a moderator, child welfare workers’ race/ethnicity was measured as a dichotomous variable (racial minority vs. white). A multiple-group path analysis was employed to examine the moderated mediation model of inclusive leadership using AMOS 23.
The direct effect of inclusive leadership on job self-efficacy was not significant for both white and racial minority workers. Rather, inclusive leadership was positively associated with job self-efficacy indirectly by increasing inclusive climate (racial minority β = .065, p < .01; white β = .051, p < .001) and psychological empowerment (racial minority β = .048, p < .01; white β = .069, p < .001). We also found some significant differences in the direct and indirect effects of inclusive leadership between white and racial minority workers. The direct impact of inclusive leadership on an inclusive climate was greater for racial minority workers (racial minority β = .452, p < .001; white β = .378, p < .001). Furthermore, the inclusive climate was significantly associated with psychological empowerment only among racial minority workers (β = .153, p < .05).
Findings provide empirical evidence to support the theory of change for inclusive leadership, especially in the context of child welfare organizations. As Randel et al. (2018) proposed, inclusive leadership can function as an underlying mechanism to promote synergistic performance outcomes (inclusive leadership→ inclusive climate → psychological empowerment → job self-efficacy). Therefore, inclusive leaders should respect workers’ diverse perspectives, respond to their unique needs, treat them fairly, and allow them to engage in decision-making to enhance their performance through innovative ideas. Furthermore, the multiple path model confirmed from this study showed a better fit for racial minority workers. This finding can inform efforts to better support racialized staff in child welfare who face more experiences of discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace.