This is the eighth in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In these columns I have discussed what I call the diversity movement — the composite of individual, group, and organizational efforts to reduce societal inequities that penalize people because of their actual or perceived membership in certain social groups. In particular I have focused on the intersection of diversity and speech.
After analyzing the past half century of the diversity movement, I concluded that the movement actually consists of four separate but intersecting diversity strands: intercultural; equity and inclusion; critical theory; and managing diversity.My past columns have sketched the parameters of the first three strands.In this column I will focus on the fourth strand, managing diversity.
When innovative thinking is at the helm, you can be sure that at its core is inspirational leaders. Real leaders have our back, and stand up for doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. At a time when we are surrounded by the forces of darkness and authoritarian strong men, we owe to ourselves, our communities, our countries and the world to stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight to preserve the freedoms many of us have come to take for granted. Make your voices heard. Democracy dies in silence.
Innovative leaders shape positive behavior, communitarianism as well as business practices. Under this form of stewardship, optimism and gratitude prevail.
The Marine Corps’ purpose as stated on its webpage is to, “Defend the people of the United States at home and abroad. To do that, we make Marines who win our Nation’s battles and return as quality citizens.”To the casual reader, the first half of the purpose, which is to defend the United States, is stated in simple terms and easily understood.However, it is the latter half of the purpose that bears some investigating and begs the question, “What does make a better citizen mean?”To answer this question, I want to take you on a journey through the process of becoming a Marine, the transformation that occurs and the life-changing impact of being immersed into a sea of diversity creates.
Citizens from every walk of life you can imagine arrive by bus to one of three locations.Young men and women who have signed an enlistment contract arrive at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina or Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.Officer candidates receive their initial training at the Officer Candidate School located in Quantico, Virginia.For the purposes of this journey, we will focus on the experience of the recruits who matriculate through one of the training Depots.
Overcoming obstacles to the integration of disabled people in the C-Suite should be at the top of every board agenda. Often, I hear about diversity, but diversity efforts alone do not deal with the challenges facing disabled senior executives or aspiring leaders. These challenges can be addressed, and leaders have a responsibility to turn around the stigma surrounding disability in the C-suite.
When I provided an introductory session for highly skilled Toastmaster Ant Blair, my goal was to earn the privilege of providing him a program that blends training on how to effect change in one, brief conversation with coaching. Ant was quite engaged during his training. I was feeling optimistic about the outcome. Then at the end of his session, something totally unexpected happened. Ant was the one to effect change in one, brief conversation.
I have been puzzled by colleagues congratulating me on my humility. What are these folks talking about? People who knew me years ago would definitely be amused by that. At best, I was described as “Sweet but Stern.” At my boldest, I was told that I could terrorize entire cities. Community leaders had a white-knuckled grasp on their chairs when I tersely announce my intention to speak off-the-record. Not even a voice from the back of the room calling out, “Oh ho, this should be good!” slowed me down.
Unconscious bias training is an admirable project but may often be ineffective. The fuzzy, vague term of unconscious bias is often applied indiscriminately, but unconscious bias isn’t a one-size-fits-all term amenable to a one afternoon of training. Yes, it can refer to the incident where the police were called to arrest two African-Americans waiting for a meeting at Starbucks. But it can also mean only smiling at customers that look like you, rejecting resumes from diverse applicants, and promoting the employees who resemble the current leadership team. If we want to address unconscious bias effectively, we need to first be aware of how the senses, emotions, and brain interact to create unconscious bias. Second, we must go beyond awareness of our biases to sensitivity to their impact. Lastly, we need to develop a system that internalizes wise decision making with ongoing reinforcement of that competence.
Five days ago, I was on the other side of the globe. Exhausted from twelve weeks of attempting to keep up with this fast-paced Mecca of the international business world, I was still not ready to extract myself from the extrovert’s haven that is Shanghai. This is the land of business cards and alcohol, where the networking maniacs of the West flock to jump into the Eastern financial “boom”, assuming that the “bust” is nowhere in sight. For one brief summer, I was a part of this cultural mish-mash, ecstatic to surround myself with the expats, entrepreneurs, and “students of life” that are so enthusiastic to be exposed to the challenges of living in such a foreign, yet increasingly Westernized, environment. Being a student of psychology, the best way for me to summarize my experience in China is to describe the mental processes I used to adapt. Looking back on my little adventure, I can easily identify the points at which I hit the various stages of Culture Shock, and it is through this cycle that I feel others can catch a better glimpse of my path of growth.
If there was one thing that you could point to for all of your success and accomplishments, what would it be? Likewise, where would you point the finger for all of your mistakes and failures? Right now there should be two fingers pointing at you. Why? Because who you are and what you become is completely up to you.
Global Leadership today: The modern workplace brims with activity as people dart from meeting to meeting. Sometimes our communication is too brief. At times our messages are not well thought out. Even when the communication is crystal clear, the message can get lost in a wave of workload. But because our organizations tend to rely on best practices, people have a common frame-of-reference when there are misunderstandings. Best practices are a common denominator that allow us to understand and predict behavior, and serve as “true north” as we navigate the complexity of modern organizational life.
As organizations expand internationally and multi-cultural communications between employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers become more frequent, we are finding that the common denominator of best practices begins to unravel. And once we can no longer fall back on best practices, our inner compass can go haywire.