Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence


The jury’s decision in the recent George Zimmerman verdict has strained the cultural divide. But it’s possible for diversity and inclusion to bridge the gap in the workplace by thwarting destructive stereotypes, insensitivity and inaction. Here’s how:


1.  Focus on Excellence. Don’t forget, managing diversity and fostering inclusion results in superiority. Start collecting meaningful data and gathering empirical evidence to illustrate why diversity and inclusion works. For example, Ralph Gilles, President of the SRT brand and Senior Vice President of Design at Chrysler, styled the 2005 Chrysler 300. Now distinguished as a luxury automobile, this vehicle has the most automotive awards in history and has led to a financial windfall for Chrysler. Gilles is an active member of Chrysler’s diversity groups.


2.  Develop High Cultural Intelligence. Take the time to think about how you can increase quality interactions among different groups. Sharing common goals and possessing equal status is a key factor in increasing openness and changing preconceived mindsets.  The Harvard Business Review illustrates this concept with an article about Peter, a Los Angeles-based sales manager for Eli Lilly. When Peter was transferred to the company’s Indianapolis headquarters, he experienced many cultural challenges. In L.A., Peter’s confrontational, high-pressure style was the norm and effectively motivated his sales staff. In Indianapolis, his new team disliked his hard charging ways and avoided the challenges he set for them. Mentoring was an effective tool in helping Peter to make sense of unfamiliar contexts and adapt to them.


3.  Train Managers Better. A recent Leadership IQ study found that in 42% of companies surveyed, the employees who do the worst job are the ones who feel the most “engaged.” Meanwhile the middle and high performers feel disconnected from their jobs and are not very motivated to come to work every day. This boils down to a leadership problem. Train bosses how to be clear about performance standards and transparent about what they want their employees to do. High performers should be regularly recognized and rewarded with praise, promotions and raises. Likewise, it’s important to help managers understand that difficult conversations with diverse workers will not necessarily translate into feelings of discrimination or bias, but may actually result in better performance. Provide opportunities for practice so that supervisors can feel more comfortable with creating a level playing field through feedback and high expectations.



By Leah Smiley



Leah Smiley is a leading national speaker and thought leader on the subject of diversity and inclusion. Mrs. Smiley is the President and Founder of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about Leah Smiley or the Society for Diversity, log onto 

Comments on: "Building a Stronger and Faster Mousetrap" (1)

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