Diversity In Leadership

10.01.12 | Posted in UnCommon Leadership

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The conversation around diversity and how each of us should embrace people and ideas that are different has been around for some time now. HR departments around the globe have initiated trainings, workshops, and seminars to help educate employees on its importance.  The most common form of diversity conversation and focus is on cultural diversity; ethnicity, religion, and country.

One area regarding diversity that should receive more attention is diversity in leadership, communication and management. Or, another way to say it might be in the form of this question; “Do you value and appreciate others who lead, communicate and manage completely different than you?”

If we were all honest, most of us would admit that we don’t. Recently, I was working with an executive, and when I posed a question to him of how he could be more accepting of the diverse styles on his leadership team his answer was, “I’m just going to hire everyone like me!”   We both laughed, but truth is, I think we’ve all had the same thought as the perfect antidote for our leadership issues.

I recently completed a project for two groups of students at Louisiana State University (LSU). I taught social and emotional intelligence, leadership and we used the Birkman Method® assessment to help bring everything into focus. When asked what they learned from the workshops about their leadership styles, here are two quotes from students that amplify the previous conversation:

  • “…when people are silent after things I say, it is not just because they agree, or have no ideas, they are just intimidated by me.”
  •   “Even though I have always been aware of this, my trait of being domineering and authoritative can be a bit too overbearing for a lot of people and especially for certain people with certain traits (such as those who do not take dominance well).”

It might be easy to dismiss these statements by some because of their youthful inexperience. My observation based on coaching numerous high level executives is that this particular failure of valuing and understanding diversity in this context is more common than you may think. We as leaders “just do” what it is we do, and do not realize our impact on others with our style of leadership, communications and management. When we see others “act” a certain way, we make value judgements about why they are acting that way filtered through our biases and beliefs ( lack of diverse thinking!). We have the potential of being so far off base, it’s no wonder some struggle to lead others effectively. We think we are valuing diversity when, in fact, our actions and style are actually shutting the door to diverse opinions and ideas.

Question: Are you committed to becoming an UnCommon Leader by understanding how you impact others with your leadership, communications and management style so that you foster more diversity in your organization?

Onward & Upward!

Ed Chaffin

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