Understanding Diversity in Leadership


Diversity is fast becoming a common turn of phrase – a word that most people loosely recognise but few truly understand. It is easy to look around the workspace and come to the broad brush conclusion that a given environment is diverse just because there happen to be a few members of a different ethnicity part of the team.


Is your work space truly diverse or is it just an optical illusion?

What is diversity in the workspace?

While sex, race and creed are obvious visuals to diversity, genuine diversity goes way beyond sex, race or creed. It is about different mind sets and viewpoints coming together to form a beautiful unity. It isn't just about superficially bringing in people who look different into the corporation but about how that different individual can become a part of a given corporation's fabric without also losing their identity in so doing.


Why is diversity important for the growth of your business?

Our world is constantly evolving and changing. Nothing is ever static and for a business to remain robust and resilient, it has to be flexible enough to keep up with developments. If a corporation is unable to truly embrace the melting pot of viewpoints and produce a cohesive brew, that business will not go the distance. The world ever changes and we have to change with it.


There are limitations to everyone's experiences. We are all a product of our experiences. Our customer base however goes far beyond the confines of any one person's ideals. Therefore, to broaden our base of business, we have to be prepared to integrate a broader base of views.

Singapore is a multi racial society and it is not unusual to have colleagues from a different race working amongst us. However, how far do the minority races contribute to the management of the business? Are we doing enough to reap the benefits of their honest opinions? Or are we really just lazily creating visual diversity without diversity in our hard drive?


Do you have lots of minority races or women at the entry and mid level positions while the boardroom is still dominated by the Chinese Male Majority (CMM) (in the Singaporean context) or the White Male Majority (WMM) (in the international context)?


If the board room is still dominated by the CMM or the WMM, then, we aren't really creating diversity. All we are doing is getting the minorities to reinforce and endorse our current world view. This in itself limits us in our ability to reach out to an increasingly diverse world and customer base because we aren't really tapping into the benefits of our visually diverse workforce by harnessing their honest viewpoints.


Embracing Diversity

Permitting diversity and embracing diversity are two things. Does your current set up provide the non CMMs/WMMs among you to succeed on their own terms?


For example, a woman may feel she needs to project a more masculine persona in order to progress or a racial minority may feel the need to tone down his or her own ethnicity in order to fit in. Our customer base (especially in this day and age) goes far beyond the CMMs and WMMs. What then is the use of having minorities parrot the viewpoints of the CMMs and WMMs apart from visual difference?


Our set up must be one that allows for genuine diversity. In other words, for those who are different to succeed on their own terms.

Very often, the starting point of diversity and inclusion for each organization that we work with varies vastly. However, we believe that it's really about starting to understand how genuine diversity can actually impact business outcomes and it happens from the point when your recruiting process casts a different and wider net for candidates. It happens when you acknowledge and give credit to people for their ideas and contribution. Diversity and Inclusion happens when people in power use that power to bring people in rather than keep people out.


Engaging Leaders help our clients in discovering the areas of growth through embracing diversity in leadership.


Talk to us to find out how your organization can create a more diverse and inclusive workforce that drives sustainable performance.


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