Separate but Equal Has Not Left the Building

Following is a guest post from Mason Donovan and Mark Kaplan, co-authors of The Inclusion Dividend, that explores why diversity and inclusion are essential to effective leadership.

The Inclusion DividendAlthough “separate but equal” was struck down quite a long time ago by the Supreme Court, it persists in another fashion once you cross the corporate threshold.

If you have worked for a large corporation long enough, you have most likely been through numerous workshops on leadership development ranging anywhere from motivational skills to innovation to team building. Hopefully, all of them have been helpful to some degree. Then there are the diversity and inclusion, D&I, workshops.

Within corporate America, D&I for the most part originated from civil legislation, so it is not surprising that the training was once very litigation focused. However, what is surprising to some today is that only 30 percent of all D&I development is based on legal compliance in the F1000. The other 70 percent is central to business growth such as innovation, talent management and acquisition, productivity and client engagement.

Very often mainstream leadership development is on a separate but equal parallel track to D&I development even though they are reaching the exact same goals.

An inclusive culture has proven to increase innovation, create productive teams, elevate corporate morale and promote marketplace growth. It is a critical leadership competency in today’s rapidly diverse global environment. How successful would a team motivational workshop be if the leader did not have the skill sets to create an inclusive environment? If different voices are not welcomed at the table, how do you think that would impact the results of a workshop on fostering innovation?

Diversity and inclusion are core to leadership.

An approach which treats them as separate entities is not creating an equal impact. As a leader, you can help bridge the gap even when the company is treating them separately by focusing on a foundational competency; individual awareness and self-management. Use the following three steps when you are participating in a L&D program.

  1. Challenge your own conventional wisdom. Ask how diversity and inclusion may be a factor in each and every leadership development course. Ask why it is not an integral part of learning and development.
  2. Audit yourself, your relationships and your critical moments within your leadership program. Consider those in the program you are connecting to and learning from. Discover whom you have an affinity and whom you do not. Be aware of how likeness is shaping your learning experience.
  3. Build relationships with people who are different. Seek out those individuals who differ on approaches and ideas. Extend collegial relationships beyond the program.

The make-up of our corporate leadership, front line teams and clients are rapidly changing. A separate but equal approach will not be a sustainable competitive option.

How do you leverage diversity and practice inclusion as a leader?

Mason Donovan and Mark Kaplan are principals of The Dagoba Group, a global diversity and inclusion consultancy focused on delivering measurable returns. They are co-authors of  The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off (Bibliomotion 2013).


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