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Diversity Leadership > Diversity Management

November 6, 2012

By The Linkage Editorial team

Al Vivian, the President and CEO of Basic Diversity, Inc., a full-service cultural diversity training and consulting firm that has been operating nationally for 34 years, has provided diversity counsel to people of all walks of life—from CEOs, to sanitation workers and every occupation in between. He also knows that now more than ever, leaders need diversity strategies to build diversity competencies that will help them lead rather than just manage their organizations to better compete in our increasingly diverse and competitive world.

“I will start with some basic points that everyone can logically agree with” he writes.

“First, every organization needs quality leadership to be successful in a highly competitive world. And second, diversity is a reality that is here to stay and its impact will only broaden via globalization as the world continues to shrink and flatten. As a result, there is an automatic interconnectedness between leadership and diversity, yet the relation between the two has not been adequately and accurately explored.”

“In order to truly maximize the effectiveness and potential of ourselves and our organizations we must develop solid diversity leadership competencies. This is true for all of us, regardless of our cultural background because you cannot maximize your effectiveness as a leader in an extremely diverse society without understanding diversity. In short, you cannot lead what you do not understand.

Leadership > Management
“If you were to compile a list of the traits and skills that you most admire about great leaders like – Martin Luther King, Jr., Tony Blair, Mary McCloud-Bethune, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Margret Thatcher, and others; odds are you would list things like moral courage, their ability to inspire; their mastery of language; how they helped ordinary people tap into their greatness, etc…. Your list would not include the statement, ‘They were great managers’. Chances are they all were great managers; but in the end nobody cares. We don’t follow other people because of their management skills. We follow them because of how they make us feel.

“The reality is that people don’t want to be managed. They want to be led. They want to be inspired. They want to follow people that they connect with. The 21st century leader MUST have the adequate competencies to connect and build trust in an authentic way with people across a huge myriad of cultures and ideologies.

Diversity Leadership > Diversity Management
“Management deals with rules and policies, and let’s face it, that’s the easy part. Anyone can create a rule or write a policy statement. Leadership, on the other hand, deals with changing hearts and minds and holding people accountable. This is a far more daunting and challenging task.

“The unfortunate and regrettable truth is that we as a society have treated diversity like it is an inanimate ‘thing’; an object to be managed. But it’s not. It is a collection of people—living, breathing folks with minds and emotions. For the past 20 years or so, organizations have focused a lot of energy on diversity management, and understandably so. To their credit, these efforts have helped many organizations move past just counting heads, dealing only with representation. Some of these organizations are now re-directing a portion of their energy towards creating an inclusive environment that supports diversity.

“The diversity management approach is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. Managers tend to look toward the most expedient (and often temporary) fix; while leaders are more apt to look down the horizon for the actual long range resolution to the problem. This type of leadership is woefully missing as it relates to building fully inclusive environments that not only allow all types of people to flourish and maximize their abilities; but encourages, grooms and develops them to do so.

“Many feel that leaders have failed to aggressively take the lead on diversity out of a lack of desire. I on the contrary think this failure to lead on diversity has less to do with desire, and more to do with fear. Fear of making a mistake and being “labeled”. The good news is that this fear can be eroded when leaders are equipped with some diversity leadership competencies that will build both their knowledge and confidence.

A few required diversity competencies
In her book, Managing Diversity: Toward a Globally Inclusive Workplace, Michalle E. Mor Barak talks about how ancient Chinese tradition divides people into categories based on four qualities: Shi (scholars), Nong (farmers), Gong (artisans) and Shang (merchants). The belief is that to be a fully effective leader, one must acquire the ‘…vision and ethics of the scholar, the appreciation and respect for basic human needs of the farmer, the creativity and drive for excellence of the artisan, and the ambition of the merchant (in order) to make a profit.’ The concept to grasp here is that cultural competency is not about learning every little nuance about every cultural group. It’s more about learning the perspectives and big picture concepts that relate to various cultures. In short, diversity leadership competency is not focused on learning a long list of cultural “do’s and don’ts”. It is about establishing common ground with people from cultures other than your own by developing some simple tools. Some examples of these competencies are:

  • Being aware of your own biases
  • Developing cultural dexterity
  • Challenging false assumptions
  • Exercising moral courage
  • Embodying trust and fairness
  • Being consistent

Most of these competencies are not complicated or difficult to learn; and they tend to line up with our already accepted moral codes, and organizational values. All we have to do is put forth an effort until they become second nature.

In the words of leadership guru Warren Bennis, “Managers are people who do things right. Leaders are people who do the right thing.” Take the lead, step up and do the right thing. Everyone will benefit; yourself included.

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We want to hear from you. Are you equipped with the talent you need to compete in an increasingly diverse global market?

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