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Leadership challenges in turbulent times
Leadership challenges in turbulent times

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2.2 Harnassing diversity

In their article, 'Great leaders who make the mix work ' (2013), Boris Groysberg, an academic researcher, and Katherine Connolly, a research associate in the organisational behaviour unit at Harvard Business School (HBS), discuss the importance of diversity and inclusivity.

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Figure 8 Diversity and inclusion within the workplace

Groysberg and Connolly explain that diversity should be perceived as an investment in the most important assets of the organisation's balance sheet, the people. Diversity is about investing in people. Diversity is necessary because it allows an organisation to stay competitive, to seek the best possible ideas and solutions and continue to innovate and grow. Moreover, by harnessing diversity employees feel valued and, therefore, are more willing to support the aims of the organisation, serve the customers and work together.

At the same time, diversity may create dissent and challenge people's way of thinking, getting them into deep inquiry or breakthrough.

Groysberg and Connolly present eight organisational practices that seem to be effective at harnessing diversity:

  1. Measure diversity and inclusion: be aware of the level of diversity in the organisation. Collect data to measure what you are doing well and what can be improved in order to make the organisation a more diverse place.

  2. Hold managers accountable: diversity and inclusion should be among the goals of the organisation. For example, incorporate them as part of the manager's professional development, ask them to get involved or offer them training.
  3. Support flexible work arrangements: offer benefits that help employees balance professional and personal commitments, provide greater flexibility of working hours, allow transitional periods, offer childcare support etc.
  4. Recruit and promote from diverse pools of candidates: searching for talent at the hiring stage is the starting point but it is also very important to maintain this talent afterwards.
  5. Provide leadership education: provide leadership development opportunities for everyone in the organisation and seek to support less advantageous or represented groups. Offer diversity training and opportunities for external education and development.
  6. Sponsor employee resource groups and mentoring programs: offer less structural approaches to professional development through resource groups, networks, mentoring programs etc.
  7. Offer quality role models: a varied array of leaders indicates that an organisation is committed to diversity and offers role models to identify with.
  8. Make the position of the chief diversity officer count: create a chief diversity and inclusion officer position and ask for the CEO to maximise its effectiveness.
(Groysberg and Connolly, 2013)

So far you have seen how to deal with leadership challenges in turbulent times by following a three step process and making use of inclusiveness and diversity.

You will now focus on how to navigate through leadership challenges and achieve positive outcomes through collaboration. To put this differently, you will address the question – how does leadership help individuals, teams and organisations collaborate to achieve good outcomes for all – a positive-sum outcome? The idea of ‘better together’ is one that many would agree with in principle, but in practice achieving good outcomes for all – or the common good - is by no means easy.