A while back, I had written on interdependence in leadership as I believe it is critically important to our ability to lead effectively. If you missed that post, I encourage you to go back and read it!
What I am going to focus on in this post (diversity) is related to interdependence as it is built on the premise that interdependence is valuable and necessary to effectively lead with other leaders. Do we really believe that we are “better together”? Unless we realize the need to surround ourselves with those who strengthen areas we are weak in, diversity doesn’t matter – it’s just corporate jargon.
So, what do I mean when I say diversity?
Given the frequent use of this word in our culture, you likely have some immediate thoughts when you hear “diversity”. The dictionary says diversity is variety, multiformity, difference, unlikeness.
From a leadership perspective, what makes us different, varied, unlike each other? There are a number of things we could include and I’m sure you could expand this list, but for the sake of this post I am going to focus on our unique personality as well as our talents and/or giftings.
Here are a few questions I think may be helpful to ask when evaluating yourself & your team and whether or not you are valuing and embracing diversity.
1. Why is diversity important?
Diversity simply for the sake of diversity is not helpful and could actually be quite destructive. A leader needs to ensure unity within diversity – meaning, a team needs to be unified around their purpose for working together. You could refer to it as a mission, vision, etc. Either way, without that unifying aspect, each person will run off in their own direction – likely doing great things, but not together.
Beyond some of the points I made earlier (related to interdependence), diversity recognizes that one person (or type of person) will be limited in their ability to lead and/or influence others – especially those who are different than they are.
A team or organization is immediately limited to the strengths and weaknesses of an independent leader.
No one single person is the most creative, most analytical, most effective as a communicator, most wise, most strategic, most passionate, hardest working, most technically astute, most thoughtful, etc. The list could keep going…which makes my point. We are each uniquely made and we need to be self-aware enough to see what we are good at, what we lack and where to best fill in the gaps with those who are stronger in those areas. I previously wrote about self-awareness in greater detail. If you haven’t thought along these lines in the past, I encourage you to go and read that post as well.
2. Am I aware of and sensitive to the personality and talents/gifts of each team member?
I am often amazed at how little we know about those we work with. In most cases, we spend more time with our team at work than we do with family members yet we know very little about them. Sure, you may know what they are good at and how they contribute to the team directly, but are there things about them that, if better understood, would help us achieve new levels of effectiveness as a team? Typically the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” You would probably be amazed what you learn if at your next team meeting you simply asked everyone to share a profound memory from their childhood.
What I am getting at is – how we interact with each other should be well informed. Our personality definitely influences our talents and gifts, how we process information, how we feel valued and affirmed, how we respond when challenged, etc. This is the reason so many great profiling tools have been developed over the years (i.e. MBTI, DiSC, Big Five, Strengths Finder, etc.).Organizations that utilize these tools and encourage informed interaction with their teams will find new levels of effectiveness.
But is that the only reason to do it – to be more effective?
That is certainly a great outcome and worth pursuing, but the value goes much deeper than that.
I believe that most people want to be known and valued for who they are.
Not only will you be more effective, but their engagement level will skyrocket if done well. This also assumes that a leader is using this new found information responsibly vs. just a tool to control or manipulate. That would clearly unwind any heightened engagement from someone who felt their best interest wasn’t priority.
There is much to consider here and I’m sure you could add to these thoughts. Either way, how are you valuing diversity on your team and within your organization?
I hope this helps you dig a bit deeper!