The Root of all Diversity

As 2015 reluctantly winds down to its final days, I find a highly-charged momentum continues on a topic that has become and will seemingly remain among the most important objectives of any organization and its leaders.

Across the country, from companies to communities to colleges, the dialog of how to pursue ‘diversity and inclusivity’ in genuine, sincere, demonstrative and sustainable forms continues to lead and perhaps dominate many settings.  One particular problem is while organizations, institutions and even communities may indeed seek and actually achieve diversity, they find a tremendous additional challenge in sustaining this demonstrated capacity and to actually be inclusive of all of their constituencies.

I ask you to consider for a moment what exactly do many organizations actually mean when they say they want to be diverse?  If we follow the practical process of checking our dictionaries, we’d immediately re-discover that among the definitions offered, the phrase ‘unlikeness’ appears.

That could be part of the problem

To be ‘unlike’ others around you can, of course, set a very different tone even under the best of circumstances because, more often than not, the mere recognition of being unlike most others is that you’re less a part of them—whoever ‘they’ may be.  I’m not even sure what the root word of diversity is, but I know the word “divide” can’t be too far away.  And as we know—when we divide—we separate.

That’s not very inclusive

As an alternative, I propose a slightly different model of thinking.  The purpose of seeking diversity in an organization is to harness the variety of talents, experiences and perspectives that provide for a far richer and stronger assembly of assets.  The difference isn’t the difference; it’s the power that comes from difference.  That is what I sense so many leaders and organizations are really seeking when they champion ‘diversity and inclusivity’:  The power of difference.

As leaders, we must aggressively pursue higher powers of difference; create opportunities to expand our pooled talents and to enrich the work we share with our teams.  To achieve inclusivity, we may need to ever-so-subtly shift our paradigm of what it means to be diverse and be willing to seek new ways to communicate our constant quest to build our power through difference.  We as leaders must recognize the available attraction and influence through honest demonstrations and actions of our organizations and communities that can only be accomplished through the variety of people we bring to our organizations.

We owe it to our organizations to lead our teams to levels of personal and group success that illustrate real involvement and are attributable to as many members as possible.  We owe it to our communities to grow in ways that demonstrate a dedicated, sustainable and genuine value of the power that comes from what makes us different—a power that we intentionally share and give freely—and to value, understand and dedicate ourselves to preserving those differences in order to preserve and build the power that will allow us all to become greater together.  And, we owe all these things to the principles we openly discuss, describe, define and demand.

The power of difference, in the end, is not a new source of making things possible.  It is the essential ingredient to ensuring the future we’ll share.

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