Driving Diversity: Are You Up to the Job?

Written by James O. Rodgers

If the diversity movement is going to enter a new, results-oriented era, then the movement is going to need a new type of leader. But what does that leader look like? The new leaders of the diversity movement must have two qualities: sophistication and practicality.

The ideal diversity champion will have a few important qualities:

  • Extensive operational experience:

    The diversity management leader needs to know the ins-and-outs of his business. He needs to be seen as a “player” in the business – someone who’s already an established leader and is upwardly mobile.
  • Critical thinking skills:

    While the diversity management leader knows his business well, he also sees the value in thinking outside the established box. He can identify where to strategically employ diversity in order to solve problems in creative ways. Diversity’s biggest value is freshness of perspective, and the diversity champion knows that.
  • Effective communication:

    The leader of diversity management uses effective communication in two ways. One, he clearly guides his team toward a defined set of results. Two, he communicates the value of new perspectives to his team members. Diversity is powerful because it allows people to risk looking silly by suggesting things no one’s ever considered before. This is the only way to bring new perspectives to the table. So the diversity champion communicates the value of risky thinking, which helps his team members fearlessly tackle whatever problem is at hand.
  • Patience and persistence:

    Diversity isn’t a magic solution. It takes time and careful effort to manage diversity. So the diversity champion tests the waters. He doesn’t immediately impose diversity across the board. At the same time, he doesn’t give up if diversity doesn’t work the first time around. He repeats the process and fine-tunes it until it brings about the best results.

David Cote, CEO of Honeywell, is a good example of what being an ideal diversity champion looks like. Chief Executive Magazine named Cote “CEO of the Year” in 2013. How did Cote reach this level of success? By using the principles of Deliberate Diversity™. Cote’s “One Honeywell” culture invites innovative ideas from every Honeywell employee, whether they are hourly workers or top-level executives. Now that Honeywell is open to diverse ideas and implementing the best ones, the company has grown by leaps and bounds – Honeywell has seen a 71% increase in sales since Cote took the reins.

The ideal leader doesn’t see diversity as an end in itself. He knows diversity management is the best way to get the best results. His job is to manage diversity in order to get those results, the same way Cote did.