Diversity – it’s the hottest of hot topics in our day. Organizations big and small are finding themselves under the diversity microscope and many seem ill-equipped to handle the scrutiny. There are tremendous opportunities for organizational leaders willing to do the challenging introspective work around this issue, but there are also some threats. How you emerge will depend on the quality of the frameworks you apply to your thinking. Here are a few ideas that might add some value and dimension to the discussions that might be underway in your organization:
1. It’s not about power – Unfortunately, the current political debate focuses exclusively on power – which groups and their “representatives” have it, which ones don’t, and how to distribute it more equitably. It’s a rotten framework for organizational performance. I like what Lt. David Marquet says in his fantastic book, Turn the Ship Around; he says “empowerment” is not a good word for what leaders should be doing because it assumes that leaders have power while others do not. Great leaders aren’t concerned with sharing their power. They are concerned with drawing out the power and potential that others already possess. To me, this radical reframe sounds a lot like the servant leadership Jesus describes when he tells his disciples not to be like worldly rulers who exercise power over others, but to be servants, elevating others above themselves (Matt. 20). Can you imagine the potential that could be unleashed if your organization’s leadership fully exemplified this principle? At the very least, there’d be a lot fewer people clamoring to grab the top spots.
2. It’s not about politics – Categorizing people along racial, ethnic, and gender lines might seem expedient to politicians trying to get elected, but it’s a low-resolution framework to import into your organization. What about differences in skill sets, personality types, and life experiences? What about character and gifting? High performing teams can draw from a deep well of diversity that you might not perceive from their demographic data alone and great leaders will look high and low to find the right mix, not limiting themselves to certain voter blocks or resorting to tokenism. In his online lectures, Prof. Jordan Peterson talks about how organizations tend to push out their entrepreneurs, artists, and thinkers to maximize efficiency during times of stability when these are the very people they will need most in times of radical change. Has this deficiency been revealed in your organization during COVID-19?
3. It’s about the head and the heart – You can’t discuss diversity without also addressing unity – what’s the glue that holds a diverse group of people together? Sadly, there seems to be less and less glue holding a nation like the US together these days; but for Christians, the answer is in our name. The scriptures tell us we are a body while Christ is the head (Col. 1:18). I think this means that he’s in charge and we’re not, and according to the scriptures, he’s far more concerned with what’s going on beneath the skin than we are (1 Sam. 16:7). What would it look like for you to follow God’s lead by focusing less on the outward things that tend to divide us and more on the deeper things that unite us under the banner of Christ?