THE BLOG
02/20/2014 03:25 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2014

Revolutionizing the Leadership and Diversity Relationship

The starting point of this blog is that how leaders develop and how diversity practiced in our organizations is outdated.

In this our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, change is a given. The pace of change is not. Every day the pace of change continues to accelerate and how global leaders respond and cope with this accelerated pace is essential.

Included in this dilemma, the one tenet of change that continues to prove challenging for our organizations is the growing demands of diversity. In our global village where diversity is palpable, how leaders respond to, leverage, and embed the changing faces of diversity in their organizations is an imperative.

My interest in this area grew whilst working on transformation projects for organizations. In my work as a practicing organizational consultant and business psychologist I observed that leaders' skills were often inadequate across a wide spectrum of challenging scenarios.

Leaders are simply not equipped with the appropriate cognitive, social and behavioral skills to handle VUCA issues. Further, these types of skills did not seem to transfer readily across cultures. As a consequence, the leader's deficiencies are mirrored and transcend into deficient organizational cultures, processes and systems.

Within our current business landscape, the breadth and depth of often polarizing challenges that leaders face continue to escalate. Challenges such as:

  • The demands of competing demographics. e.g. baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z.
  • Ongoing security risks ranging from terrorists attacks to cyber attacks.
  • The paradoxical decisions of job security versus costs whilst maintaining organizational stability in a financial volatile environment.
  • The perception of the organizations actions in relation to shareholder interests versus community interests.
  • How social technology permeates and depicts the organizations identity and brand
  • Acclimatizing to and navigating through different ways of working across cultures
  • Retaining and investing in diverse talent.
  • Adapting to changing economic and social powers.
  • Ecological issues. E.g. protecting the environment and responding to pandemics.

My interest in the area of diversity stems from my heritage, my upbringing and my experiences. I have six races in me, was brought up in five different countries. I have travelled to, and worked in, over 60 countries and have experienced several distasteful comments and actions that have infringed upon my identity that one can only hope were born out of ignorance.

Added to this, I have come to appreciate that diversity is often seen as a problem for global business leaders -- either because leaders in mature markets driven by compliance are experiencing 'diversity fatigue' or, leaders in emerging markets don't always believe diversity is 'relevant' to their context.

Together, my interest, experiences and passion for global leadership and diversity led me down a path whereby I undertook a significant five-year research with seven global organizations that represented 22 countries and seven industries. The findings agree with my starting point that leadership development and diversity strategy need to be updated and expanded to address the complexity of globalization.

From an organizational change and development perspective the challenge is how can we integrate the various components of the organization so that cohesion, innovation and financial return are achieved? Therefore, it is my belief that two questions need to be further scrutinized and debated. These are:

  1. How can leaders develop and amplify their performance on many levels?
  2. How can leaders engage with, and connect to, the diversity of stakeholders and their transforming workforces?

As this blog unfolds my objective is to encourage a debate on how integrating the various components and activities of an organization can lead to the well being for both employees and organizations alike so that their growth is sustained and their health is maintained.

I invite you to join in this conversation with me and very much look forward to your opinions as we explore and expand upon the somewhat contentious issues relating to diversity and global leadership.