“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” – Stephen R. Covey
When recruiting at the senior level, it can be easy to fall into the trap of always hiring the same type of people. You can reach out to your network, it’s simple, cost-effective and completely flawed. It robs your organisation of the different backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints you need to build an exceptional leadership team with the capacity to withstand disruption.
Diversity at the top – in terms of gender, race, age and socioeconomic background – is critical to sustaining a strong and resilient organisation. It makes your organisation better able to respond to client needs, innovate new products and services, generate strong financial returns, and retain happy, engaged staff.
The benefits of workplace diversity and inclusion are well documented. Just looking at gender diversity, we know that a higher representation of women in C-suite positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders.
A leadership team that tackles issues from multiple perspectives benefits from bold thinking and innovative solutions. In a business environment where technology is changing the rules, where companies must be increasingly agile – this is an advantage you can’t afford to pass by.
What does real leadership diversity look like?
Getting the true benefits from leadership diversity is more complex than simply improving representation at the top table. It requires creating a working environment in the executive leadership team (ELT) where the varied viewpoints and needs of a diverse team are welcomed and embraced – where people are encouraged to challenge the conventional ways of thinking within the organisation.
It can be a big change for leaders used to a command and control model, requiring emotional intelligence and to be humble enough to learn from others who are different. John F. Kennedy said that “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” True leaders expect to learn just as much from their teams as they expect to teach them.
You can improve ELT diversity organically by creating a culture that gives everyone equal opportunity to gain a leadership position. This might include:
- Conducting unconscious bias training for hiring managers.
- Actively seeking out people to promote, rather than just giving responsibility to those confident enough to ask for it.
- Reviewing your workplace policies to remove barriers to diverse leaders rising up through the organisation. Do you have leadership roles that allow for flexible work?
- Implementing mentoring programs to create opportunities for people from different backgrounds.
Are you hiring for leadership diversity?
If you’re interested in increasing leadership diversity via external hires, using a specialist recruiter can expand your search beyond what you think you need – opening your eyes to left-field candidates your traditional recruitment processes would never have considered.
Introducing someone with fresh perspectives and different lived experience could be the catalyst your organisation needs to drive innovation and deal with disruption.