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Diversity in Leadership

Aug 17, 2007
Professor Bhiku Pareskh, from the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster once said:

Diversity is a fact of modern life. It is an unavoidable fact of life because not all differences can be rationally and conclusively resolve. It is also an important source of moral, economic and social energy. It brings together different ways of looking at life and therefore enables us to learn from others and deepen our insights into human life.

Coming from a country where there is a population of 1.5 million, from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Shango and all the mixes in between with as many permutations of ethnicity possible, I must admit, diversity was a hard concept for me to grasp! I had to ask- what is diversity? This reminds me of filling out the boxes at the end of an enrolment form as I always wonder why there is not a box for those who have to figure out whether they are BC, BA, AB, who simply identify themselves as H for human!

So when did this term become so popular? The simple answer for me sometime when economics began to make it viable. Cynical? Well, perhaps a little. After all there have been government mandates on Equal Opportunities, quotas and the like. And why has the business sector embraced diversity? One could delve into recent research showing that 80% of 140 UK organisations view the development of diversity as a key contributor to their overall business success. Direct benefits include better recruitment, improved understanding of markets and communities, increased retention, enhanced reputation to cite a few.
Organisations in the voluntary and public sectors may be more focussed on fairness and justice as motivating factors for embracing diversity, consistent with their beliefs and values.
Whichever way organisations and companies broach the subject, simply having policies in place is not sufficient to ensure successful implementation. It is indeed, the depth of integration into any strategy that produces success.

So how does Leadership fit into the diversity agenda?

Leadership is quite simply critical in taking forward the diversity agenda. Leaders need to know how to manage and create culture, along with setting strategy for the future that incorporates a diverse workforce for the benefits of individuals and the organisations key objectives. To have positive performance outcomes of diversity in Leadership, one needs leaders who:
Are skilled in communicating with and coordinating among members of diverse teams
Are good at dealing with group process issues ie. Problem solving and communicating without prejudice
Can build on teams creativity and innovation, even if it does not look like anything to which we are traditionally accustomed.

To gain value from diversity in leadership requires a sustained, systematic approach and long-term commitment. Success is further facilitated by a perspective that considers diversity to be an opportunity for everyone: an opportunity to learn from each other how better to accomplish great achievements.
About the Author
Marcia Granger MCC Leadership Coach helps those in new leadership positions create the perfect work/life balance. Find out how having the right Leadership tips and tools can change your life at http://www.1stleadershipcourse.com
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