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April is diversity month! Having had the pleasure of working with hundreds of leaders since our inception we wanted to share and reflect on the importance of diversity and some lessons we have worked hard to impart to our students over the years.

Lesson #1: Diversity is a HUGE and critically important asset to any team.

Each individual leader is a wonderful and intricate combination of traits and experiences that bring unique and advantageous perspectives to any team, but so often we don’t treat it that way. Rather than viewing people who are visibly different from us, or have different skills than we do, as a threat to our success(which unfortunately happens too often), it’s time we viewed them as teammates and collaborators. In today’s divided world it is now more important than ever to recognize, appreciate, and advocate for all the ways we can collectively work towards creating a better, more inclusive world.

Lesson #2: Acknowledging and creating spaces where diversity can flourish requires knowing when to step forward and knowing when to step back.

The hard truth of this second lesson is that you should not dictate solutions to problems where you are not educated enough to have the answer. People who subscribe to traditional models of leadership usually struggle with this point because they view leadership as one person who is responsible for driving a team towards an outcome they have identified and tasked their team with achieving. Leadership in a world that acknowledges and celebrates diversity does not follow this model. Leadership in a world that acknowledges and celebrates diversity knows whose voices to magnify, what your role is in helping magnify those voices, and when it is appropriate to do so. Sometimes this means that you do take an active role in solving a specific problem or advocating for something, and other times it means stepping back entirely and being a stagehand that helps others succeed at bringing their vision to life.

Your challenges for the week:

  1. Make the effort to acknowledge and appreciate the ways that the differences of those around you make a team you are a part of better.
  2. Make a list of everything you are working on where you consider yourself to have a leadership role and ask yourself “am I occupying space that should belong to someone else?” This is a powerful exercise at recognizing personal privilege and looking at leadership from the perspective of others, and if the answer is yes you can begin working with that team to make the needed adjustments.