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NO Labels please…I am more than that.

I recently had an opportunity to participate in the Twin Cities Business Annual Luncheon focused on Women in Corporate Leadership.  I was honored to be part of the program. It’s a sold out event every year.  And one that I look forward to…

Why?  Because it is a place to catch up with old friends, meet new people and a place to engage in a community conversation about the role women are playing on boards and in leadership.  The good news – data supports progress.  Glacial progress mind you, but progress none the same.

But here’s the conundrum every leader and every organization faces.  A more diverse perspective from women and men and ethnic backgrounds is needed to ensure top performance.  And yet the urgency to accelerate is not broadly supported.  Why?

I am more than the label you give me

Because our natural bias is to seek things like us.  And like any change, it takes intentional effort to first understand, then to take action to lead differently.  Your leadership will need to embrace a position that requires diversity as part of the solution, not as a window dressing exercise but because you truly want world class performance.  It won’t happen by itself.   So in this instance (diversity) that action means YOU need to be specific about setting expectations.

No one wants to be recruited solely because of the label (a woman, ethnicity, education, millennial,…).

Labels offer only a single dimension.  “If” you’ve earned the right to make the candidate list, you want to know that  first you are recognized as a “kick ass” executive that happens to be a (fill label blank here).  To allow yourself be described any other way diminishes expectations and contribution.

And as a leader, you need to also be intentional about filling that “slate” on your teams with diversity.  And reviewing your criteria to ensure it too represents what will find the diversity vs. only finding more of the same.  Then it will take your leadership and commitment to ensure  the more critical integration of that diversity in the team or risk losing the talent because they didn’t feel like they fit in.  It’s not enough to hire the diversity. You need to be intentional about leading in a way that embraces the diversity and builds the collective capability of your team so others can see in your actions how to recalibrate their leadership to embrace the power of a diverse perspective.

And remember, it is a community conversation about how a more diverse perspective in leadership makes the world a better place.  If the conversation is confined to an annual event or only in smaller subgroups of women, men, millennials or ethnic groups, it will not move us forward.  It will only continue to accomplish progress at a “glacial speed.”

How will you engage with your community to continue the conversation about how to build leadership muscle and organizational competency to embracing the power of diversity?   How will your conversations influence the actions that are needed to move us forward?

The world is counting on all of us to lead in a way that ensures a bright future.  Are your ready?

 

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