What Leaders Say versus What They Do: Inclusive Leadership, Policy-Practice Decoupling, and the Anomaly of Climate for Inclusion

Michàlle E. Mor Barak, Gil Luria, Kim C. Brimhall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inclusion is increasingly recognized as a critical leadership issue, yet research points to effectiveness variability among diversity and inclusion initiatives, indicative of potential policy-practice decoupling. Drawing on climate theory, we develop supervisors’ inclusive leadership and climate for inclusion and introducing CEO’s inclusive leadership and group diversity as moderators. To gain a deep understanding of decoupling, we use a multilevel approach and include in our model both top level leadership (CEOs), where espoused policies are determined, and group level leadership (supervisor), where enacted behaviors are experienced. We offer a novel perspective on climate theory for inclusion, which we have identified as “the anomaly of climate for inclusion.” Unlike other organizational climate facets, inclusion climate is shaped not only by the shared experiences of group members but also by their identities. Individuals from minority or underrepresented groups might experience decoupling in ways that are similar to other members from the same identity group even if they belong to different work groups. Our model, therefore, explains the process in which leaders create inclusive climate and point to boundary conditions in the process. We focus on two climate indicators: climate level and climate strength, and indicate that both are essential for understanding inclusion climate. Our conceptual model suggests that truly inclusive leaders would succeed at minimizing policy-practice coupling as perceived by all group members, not just historically dominant or high-status members. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)840-871
Number of pages32
JournalGroup and Organization Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • diversity
  • inclusion
  • leadership
  • multilevel
  • organizational climate or culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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