September 9, 2008

Diversity at the Top

Despite your political leanings, you cannot deny that the 2008 presidential election has a new look. Two women, an African-American and an older gentleman have appeared front and center on the stage. Regardless of who wins, there will be a new look in the Whitehouse come January 2009.

So what does it mean, exactly?

It seems clear that people are energized by having greater diversity at the top. We are a very diverse nation, growing more so each year, and people like having their leaders reflect their own characteristics, hoping they will thus be more able to represent their views.

It is an exciting time in this respect.

There are caveats, however. One potential danger is in choosing leaders solely because they look like us, as opposed to being the best person for the job. And this is, unfortunately, too much of what has happened in the past.

Clarence Thomas and Barak Obama are both highly-accomplished African-American men, but their political views differ dramatically. Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have both helped to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling; but their views on most issues that affect every day Americans are markedly different and as a result they would lead the country in very different directions.

Diversity should be considered "necessary but insufficient". In business as well as politics, we need the value that comes from diverse voices, not only gender, race, age, ethnicity, but differing points of views as well. Our world is too complex to rely upon a simple, singular perspective.

We also need leaders who are intelligent, competent, and trustworthy who will go beyond soundbites and scripted speeches to really "walk the talk" of inclusive leadership.

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