Monday, 27th March 2017
NO NEED TO FEAR DIVERSITY
ADVISOR TO DIVERSE ETHICS AND LEADERSHIP ADVISOR TO CABINET OFFICE, UK GOVERNMENT, LYNNE SEDGMORE CBE
1. What unique contribution can a diverse board make to leadership? What have you learnt from diverse leaders?
A diverse board provides a vast array of talent, expertise, experience and perspectives that are much broader, expansive and challenging than one which call fall more easily into "group think" from a narrow and homogeneous mix. I have learnt to think differently, to question my unconscious biases and blind spots, to expand my horizons and to foster multiple perspective debate about critical issues. Working with leaders from very different cultures and experiences to me has provided an interesting learning journey of exploring rich worlds and ways of living that I could never have imagined.
2. Why are so many boards-public and private- lacking in ethnic diversity?
The reasons are many, varied and complex, yet we must continue to find ways to remove barriers to appointing more diverse boards. I believe that many boards continue to appoint in their own image (predominately white male) out of fear, apathy or lack of commitment. Not enough boards and organisations are providing robust and effective diversity development training and support or diversity audits. Rhetoric is not sufficient and must be followed by positive action and a clear board succession plan to appoint members from more diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.
3. How can the fear of difference be removed at the top?
Through providing time, safe space and developmental opportunities for leaders to explore the issues, complexities and fears they hold and may be acting on unconsciously or consciously. An external and competent facilitator can be invaluable as prejudices, fears and uncertainties arise, allowing leaders to move through these into a confident and skilful capability in equal opportunities and diversity. Coaching and mentoring are invaluable tools in learning from more experienced leaders and having safe space.
It is also important for leaders to understand that not everyone is after power. Diversity can bring leaders who are very strong on empowerment of others, owing to their differing cultural backgrounds and attitudes to community and public service. So when we appoint a diverse leader, it is possible that he/she will raise the opportunities and possibilities of success for everyone.
What is the unique ethical contribution diverse leaders can bring?
Different cultures and faith traditions have developed a range of perspectives on ethics and morals which can contribute to leadership in a growing diverse and multi perspective society. The need for serious understanding and competence in ethical, cultural, spiritual and social issues for leaders is critical in our multi cultural society. The case for diversity and equality is not just a legal one but also vital from a moral, business and educational perspective.
4. As an advisor to Diverse Ethics, where do you see this portal in the future?
This exciting portal brings a richness and wealth of information, people, literature, experience and advice to organisations and individuals within our society, and in both the public and private sectors. It can provide a radical approach to improving diversity and has particular expertise in interfaith dialogue and education. I am sure it will attract strong and informative debate and solutions to the key diversity issues in the 21st century.
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