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How to Build and Support a Diverse Leadership Pipeline: Best Practices from DEI Experts at Lenovo and Linkage

July 21, 2022 Deana LaFauci

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted diverse and underrepresented populations—with significant drop-off rates for women and people of color in the leadership ranks.

Investing in diverse talent has never been more critical to retaining and building the workforce of the future—and in effecting positive change on employee engagement, revenue and profit growth.

Lenovo, a Fortune 200 technology company with more than 70,000 employees globally, has achieved success developing and retaining underrepresented populations, even amid a global health pandemic and workforce disruptions.

During Linkage’s most recent webinar, Building a Diverse Leadership Pipeline for the Future: Best Practices from Lenovo, Linkage CEO Jennifer McCollum led a dynamic, hourlong conversation with two DEI leaders from this trailblazing organization.

Jennifer was joined by Calvin Crosslin, Chief Diversity Officer, President of the Lenovo Foundation, and VP of Human Resources, and Flavia Moreira, Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Lenovo.

During the webinar, Crosslin and Moreira shared the key success factors driving retention and promotion rates of diverse talent and outlined how these efforts are supporting the company’s broader goal to increase executive-level representation of women and underrepresented populations by 2025.

“It’s not about opening the door for talent—it’s about creating the door,” said Moreira.

Check out a summary of some of the important insights shared during this webinar below, and then tune in to the full, hourlong recorded session on-demand to explore the data in-depth and hear an engaging Q&A.


1. Make a long-term commitment to this important work.

Identifying, attracting, retaining and advancing diverse talent and leaders is a long-term commitment. “This work is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Crosslin. He and Moreira recommend that organizations focus on three levers: hiring, retention and advancement/promotion, and to evolve the commitment over time as the organization reaches goals or mile markers.

2. Set strategic goals + measure progress.

Lenovo has set a strategic goal to increase executive-level representation of women to 27% and underrepresented populations to 35% by 2025. “Our key success factor is representation, but there are other results we track: retention, lateral movements and whether they engaged in developing other talent,” said Moreira.

The collection and analysis of this data is an important part of Lenovo’s successful strategy to advance diverse leaders. “What you measure gets managed and done,” said Crosslin. “Start small, pause and look at what went well and what didn’t, and then refine and do it better, and you will see the results you would like to achieve.”

3. Evolve your strategy and program over time to meet new needs and rise to challenges.

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about many challenges, including a critical need to engage leaders and high-potential talent in development and enrichment during an unsettled time, as organizations shifted to remote work. Time was of the essence, and Lenovo was able to make use of Linkage’s virtual learning capabilities to shift their in-person strategy to online learning without any gaps in development or engagement.

“Linkage’s Digital Academies have been phenomenal,” said Moreira. “We kept going virtually and we added small-group interactions as a best practice. If you have to go virtual, you have that ability through Linkage, and the peer group interactions [they facilitate] are powerful.”

4. Unlock the power of Purposeful, Inclusive Leadership.

Organizations are facing steeper competition, a turbulent marketplace, and a period of intense change and transition—and they require highly effective leaders to rise to these challenges.

Linkage research shows that companies that develop inclusive, purposeful leaders enjoy 2x stronger revenue growth, 4x profit growth and 9x employee engagement.

“Our courage and our commitment to becoming better leaders never ends,” said McCollum. “You cannot be a Purposeful Leader without being an inclusive leader.”


Lenovo has partnered with Linkage since 2016 to serve their leader populations with comprehensive assessments, programming and learning experiences across in-person and virtual formats.

This helpful summary, explained in more robust detail in the full, hourlong webinar, includes insights into the key populations, the development strategies used for each, and specific outcome metrics, and can serve as a roadmap for other organizations looking to advance diverse leader groups.

Phase 1: Advancement and Development of Women Leaders

Launched in 2016, the first phase focused on the development and advancement of women leaders at the director level. Through the annual talent review process, leaders are nominated each year to experience a differentiated and engaging development program based on Linkage’s Advancing Women Leaders Signature Solution.

Through this program, Lenovo has achieved a promotion rate of 41%, more than double the organizational promotion rate of women who have not participated in the program.

How to achieve this?

Phase 2: Expanding Focus to Develop and Advance Other Underrepresented Groups

In 2017, Lenovo expanded upon the success of the women in leadership program by launching MOSAIC, an annual development initiative focused on other underrepresented leader groups, including racial/ethnic, veterans, LGBTQ and people with disabilities. Leaders experience programming based on Linkage’s Accelerating Purposeful Leaders Signature Solution.

The goals of this program are highly specific, and include:

  • Accelerating the development of Lenovo’s high-potential leaders who come from traditionally underrepresented groups
  • Providing candidates an extended leadership experience to accelerate individual, team and business results
  • Preparing candidates to assume broader leadership roles

Through this program, Lenovo has achieved 85% retention of their cohorts, with meaningful promotions to the executive and VP level.

How to achieve this?

Additional Support: Executive Sponsorship

To strengthen their support of diverse and underrepresented leaders, Lenovo launched an Executive Sponsorship program, which pairs leaders with active sponsors to support them on their career path.

Through this program, Lenovo has achieved 100% retention and 80% promotion of sponsored leaders.

How to achieve this?

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NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
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