I believe in making leadership open to all!
The majority of organisations have failed to attract and develop potential leaders from all but the narrowest of social groups.
The senior management teams and boards of directors in many organisations are still dominated by white men, commonly from a narrow subset of social backgrounds.
Despite statements about diversity policies on corporate websites, the numbers for many large corporations remain an embarrassment.
The consequences of this lack of diversity are enormous.
Even if you are not convinced by the compelling moral arguments for equal opportunities (and as a good leader you cannot, and must not reject them), the impact on organisational and economic performance are inescapable:
Wasted talent and lost impact
The amount of potential leadership talent that goes undeveloped and untapped because of discrimination (conscious or otherwise!) is vast. Are we so blessed with leadership brilliance that we don’t need to look to the enormous numbers of people from under-represented groups?
A quick glance around the current performance in the corporate or political world, might cause you to reply in the negative. How many more women, economically under privileged people, BAME group members, disabled people or those from the LBGTQ communities, might have contributed leadership to our society in meaningful ways, had they been encouraged to try and been supported in their efforts?
Rejection of difference
When leadership groups are dominated by one cultural group, they cannot have the richness of ideas, ways of thinking, understandings or attitudes that a truly diverse group does.
A large part of the power of any team or group lies in its ability to embrace diverse thinking and beliefs and create value and progress from them.
If we limit our diversity, we limit our capacity for change, innovation and progress.
Failure to represent or relate
If organisations cannot grasp the value of greater diversity in their leadership teams, they are surely doomed to failure in their attempts to understand and meet the needs of the employees, suppliers, customers and shareholders that come from these under-represented groups.
This surely cannot be an acceptable moral position for any enlightened leader, even if they fail to see the very real dangers to their organisations of not being able to relate to the sub-groups of their critical stakeholders.
Was there ever a more pressing need for the benefits of diversity?
Organisations around the world face enormous challenges now, perhaps more than ever before;
The constant disruptive change from new technology-enabled business models.
The extraordinary geo-political and cultural shifts that the world is grappling with.
The ever-increasing demands from shareholders, customers and regulators for more ethical and sustainable business practices.
The pressing issues of climate change and environmental pressure on our planet’s eco-system.
Now, at the time of writing, the world faces the added challenge of the enormous but as yet unquantified impact of the Covid 19 pandemic.
If not now, when?
Given all of the above, this must be the time when we look for the best innate talent from the whole of society, rather than just from the groups that tend to be the traditional source.
Many leaders seem to be anxious about bringing people into their teams who are seen as ‘different’. They seem to want to protect the cohesive, singularity that is their team and feel that bringing in people that they don’t understand, or they struggle to relate to, will be counter-productive, in some way.
Leaders need to accept the need to embrace all sections of society and learn to relate to them, or they will be judged as dinosaurs, creatures from a past age.
...‘Vive la difference!’
If now, then how?
There are many things that need to be done to encourage and develop a more diverse leadership group in our organisations, most of which are outside of the OLB’s remit and reach. My small role in this respect, is to try and help a more diverse group of people feel confident enough to move into leadership roles.
I aim to achieve this in part by exposing the psychological barriers and myths, that shape beliefs about leadership and where leaders can come from, but also by offering an educational and networking support framework to help all new and emerging leaders to succeed.
Mike Breeze February 2021