Organization Development

Date of this version

Spring 4-29-2021

Document Type



inclusive leadership, women leaders, art-based inquiry, music as metaphor, authentic leadership, servant leadership


Changing demographics are requiring organizations to change the way they conduct business and deliver their services. And while women and people of color have been gaining greater access to leadership roles over the past few decades, they continue to lag behind in terms of representation in comparison with their numbers in the overall population (Chin, 2010). The calls for more inclusive work environments are not only concerned about widening participation, but are equally concerned with identifying inclusive leaders (Findler, Wind, & Mor Barak, 2007). Yet many organizations have failed to increase the diversity of their leadership, leaving them ill equipped to serve a changing population in ways that are culturally competent or that effectively meet the needs of a changing population.

This study explored – through art-based inquiry using reflections on music and songs – how women leaders developed into and practiced inclusive leadership in their organizations. This study also explored how these leaders translated their reflections and values into assets, skills, and approaches that influenced their leadership. Numerous experiences impact the way these women have approached their work and leadership with an inclusive lens. Their narratives provide insights on the common experiences of inclusive women leaders; the nuanced yet multi-layered dimensions of their experiences; the challenges of practicing inclusive leadership; and their desire to validate a strong positive identity for others, as well as for themselves as an inclusive woman leader. Importance was placed on their journey, their lived experiences, authenticity, and service.

The resulting similarities in the composition of the themes support, at a minimum, an expansion of the definition of inclusive leadership to consider some of the traits, values, and approaches raised by these women leaders through their reflections on music and song. In addition, several recommendations for women leaders, for organizations, and for leadership development initiatives are made.