Inclusion in the workplace has become a must for leaders across the globe. Becoming a diversity conscious leader begins with the basic recognition that globalization has influenced our workplaces to become more diverse. Diversity is not specific to culture but includes different ages, sexuality, religions, social and ethnic backgrounds. After leaders build awareness and are able to recognize the beauty in a diverse workforce, they can begin to leverage the numerous benefits of leading a diversified team.
What do business leaders need to understand about diversity?
As a business leader, you need to understand that diversity is the norm in our societies and so it should also be reflected in our workplaces. Incorporating a more diverse workforce is going to be beneficial to your organization in many different ways. Diversity makes you open and inviting to the distinctive qualities offered by different people. It gives the company a broader range of perspectives, provides more ideas and more thorough discussions of opportunities and challenges your group faces. It also allows your business a greater potential to meet the needs of a diverse market.
What is diversity conscious leadership?
In a recent blog post by Azcentral, they define diversity consciousness as:
..”.the basic recognition that communities and workplaces in the United States are becoming more diverse. By being aware of the impact of diversity, your company is more prepared to take advantage of diversity benefits and counter potential conflicts that can result when people with different backgrounds come together.”
Diversity conscious leadership means being aware of the value diversity offers as it promotes many different perspectives and approaches to the organization. This consciousness begins with self-awareness and acknowledging our own work to be done in terms of learning about diversity and how to incorporate it into the workplace to generate the results you are striving for.
Four qualities of a diversity conscious leader
1 Practice Self-Awareness
Self- awareness is at the root of diversity conscious leadership. Self-awareness means that you find clarity with regards to your thoughts and feelings that influence you to act in a particular manner. In an article by the Association of Talent Development, they further highlight the importance of leaders being self-aware:
“Because conscious leaders are highly self-aware, they tend to choose thoughts that produce positive emotions, feelings, behaviors, and results for themselves. Also, because they exude a great deal of positive energy, the attitudes of conscious leaders also tend to be contagious—compelling others to be positive and strive toward greatness.”
2 Be Cognizant of Bias
Once you have established self-awareness as a leader, it enables you to have a cognizance of bias. Cognizance of bias means that you are mindful of your own behaviour and any unconscious bias tendencies. Diversity conscious leaders recognize that any biases can narrow their vision and inhibit them from making effective and objective business decisions. Biases do not simply exist on a personal but on an organizational level as well. Leaders need to be mindful of the many dimensions of bias in order to develop remedial action plans. In an article about inclusive leadership, Deloitte addresses the qualities of diversity consciousness:
“…they (leaders) acknowledge that their organizations, despite best intentions, have unconscious bias, and they put in place policies, processes, and structures in order to mitigate the unconscious bias that exists. Inclusive leaders also exert considerable effort to learn about their own biases, self-regulate, and develop corrective strategies. They understand that their natural state, without these interventions, tends to lean toward self-cloning and self-interest, and that success in a diverse world requires a different approach.”
You can read further about different types of unconscious biases in the workplace here.
3 Stay Curious
Conscious leadership means keeping an open mind. A genuine curiosity to hear and understand other peoples’ perspectives and views means that you favour learning and acquiring new and valuable knowledge. This ambiguity in the work environment means that you give importance to diverse insights and promote a culture of collaboration in your organization. Promoting conscious leadership means accepting your own limitations as a leader and seeking the opinions of various others in order to gain more wholesome views and understandings.
Actively listening and asking investigative questions proves an appetite for continuous learning, collaboration and understanding the perspective of diverse individuals. Empowering your team to speak their ideas will motivate them and leverage various ways of thinking, resulting in a valuable competitive advantage.
4 Develop Cultural Intelligence
As a conscious leader, you must learn to become culturally intelligent. Conscious leadership is embodied when you actively seek to defy ethnocentristic tendencies and can recognize that no culture is superior to another. Differences in culture allow for different approaches in our work environment which are needed to continuously evolve as an organization from a productivity, efficiency and innovation standpoint. In Deloitte’s prominent article about leadership in a diverse world, they make clear that being culturally intelligent begins with looking inward:
“Highly inclusive leaders are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions…While an understanding of cultural similarities and differences is important, inclusive leaders also recognize how their own culture impacts their personal worldview, as well as how cultural stereotypes—including the misuse of cultural models—can influence their expectations of others.”
The importance of diversity consciousness
Diversity conscious leadership is important because it helps you take advantage of diversity by proactively building teams that have diverse qualities and backgrounds, which brings varying perspectives, opinions and approaches to challenges you face in every work environment.
Workforce diversity is accelerating, meaning it is vital to ensure you are onboard with leading a diverse group of individuals from different backgrounds. This is a train that you simply cannot miss. If you do miss it, it is going to cause harsh assumptions of your company and negatively impact the way that people view your company and leadership abilities.
Generational diversity is expanding and having employees of diverse ages is going to give you even more differing and valuable perspectives. It is a good idea to foster generational diversity by having your company roughly reflect the composition of your general population. Conscious leaders attract, retain and engage employees as they sustain diverse groups with so many opportunities to learn from one another. This multitude of backgrounds, approaches, ideas for innovation and alternative perspectives will allow your organization to outperform other organizations and gain a competitive advantage.
The benefits of diversity conscious leadership
This approach to leadership is beneficial because it encourages you to be open and inviting to the distinctive qualities offered by different people. It gives you a broader range of perspectives, offering more ideas and more thorough discussions with regard to problem- solving and instances where improvements can be made to the business. Ultimately, it allows businesses to meet the needs of a diverse market. In a recent article by Azcentral, they highlight the benefit of incorporating diversity conscious leadership:
“Diversity is generally regarded as a positive because with employee variance in age, gender, race, ethnicity and culture, you get a broader range of perspectives. In teams, this leads to more ideas and more thorough discussions of opportunities and challenges.”
In summary, some of the benefits of diversity conscious leadership are:
- Makes you open and inviting to the distinctive qualities offered by different people
- Get a broader range of perspectives
- More ideas and more thorough discussions of opportunities and challenges
- Allows business to meet the needs of a diverse market
We live in extremely diverse societies and it is one of the many things that makes our countries so beautiful and interesting. The population norms should also be reflected in our workplaces to promote equality and to give a voice to people from all kinds of backgrounds.
If you’d like to encourage diversity-conscious leadership in your organization, start with promoting diversity and inclusion in the following areas:
- Performance management
- Rewards and recognition
- Leadership development
- Strategic alignment
Conscious leadership means working on your own self- awareness, ensuring you are cognizant to bias, staying curious and becoming culturally intelligent. Working towards becoming a diversity conscious leader is not only important but beneficial to you and your company as a whole.