DIVERSITY & LEADERSHIP
Introduction The following paper deals with four core topics concerning leadership diversity, generated from the article “Leadership Experience” by Richard L. Daft, 2008, p. 325‐361. This paper is divided into different parts. The first part introduces the topic by defining diversity and describes the importance of diversity today. The second part discusses the value of diversity to organizations and the next part deals with the concept of glass ceiling and its drawbacks. In part four the connection of leadership diversity and leadership style is discussed while the last part explains the different stages of diversity awareness. The paper closes with the conclusion which summarizes the main ideas of the paper.
1. Diversity Today Above all, there exist various different definitions regarding the concept of diversity. Throughout this paper the term diversity is used in the sense of describing differences among people in terms of dimensions such as age, ethnicity, gender, race, or physical ability (p. 333). In recent years there has been an increasing interest in diversity because of globalization and the changing workforce. The latter point shows its ongoing process that the average worker is getting older, that the workforce consists of more women, people of color and immigrants. The other factor for the discussion of diversity is globalization. The economy today consists of many multinational corporations that work together all over the world which indicates that different people from different cultures have to work together. These two factors show that diversity is an important topic when it comes to leading people and working with people. This circumstance causes the inherent need for employees and especially for global leaders, to train their cross‐cultural understanding, cultural sensitivity so that people can work smoothly across borders.
2. The Value of Organizational Diversity An interesting finding is that diversity adds value to organizations. This finding is explained best by Bell Atlantic CEO Ivan Seidenberg who states: “If everybody in the room is the same, you’ll get a lot fewer arguments and a lot worse answers.” (p. 336) This means that due to different backgrounds, cultures and experiences of group members, the outcome of such diverse groups bring more creativity and more innovation which is an obvious competitive advantage. Another important argument is that companies have to meet the needs of diverse customers. Therefore, diverse employees can help to build better relationships with diverse customers because the customers feel more related to the company when they feel that someone exactly understands their needs. It can be concluded that diversity develops greater organizational flexibility and helps to develop employee and organizational potential.
3. The Glass Ceiling The concept of glass ceiling is an invisible barrier that separates women and minorities from top leadership positions (p. 330). In the following paragraph the glass ceiling issue is stressed on women, although other minorities are concerned as well. In the recent years women have made considerable steps towards rising in corporate hierarchy. But nevertheless, the percentage of female CEOs is diminutive. It can be observed that many women are treaded in a different way than men, especially concerning the monthly salary. If it comes to the topic family, men and women are also not evaluated by the same standards. For men it is reputable to have a family while for women a family can mean a drawback on their career latter. This is due to the fact that women still care for the children most of the time and do the housework added to their job. This issue is known as mommy track which means that a woman’s commitment to her children limits her commitment to the company (p. 330). Another interesting argument concerning the glass ceiling phenomenon is that many companies were originally created by and for men that is shown in male‐dominated corporate cultures of
companies. Therefore, women in higher positions often do not feel comfortable because they have to adapt to a male dominated culture. In sum, glass ceiling is still a problem in today’s business world and will definitely remain an important issue, as long as women do not get more support in raising children and as long the executive members are male dominated and are resistant to seeing the advantages of women in executive positions which will be discussed in paragraph four. 4. Leadership diversity and leadership style This paragraph combines leadership diversity and leadership style. Firstly, what does an effective leader in a diverse global environment need? There are two important assumptions which state: (1) leaders should be aware of cultural and sub cultural differences and (2) leaders have to recognize that cultures affect both style and the leadership situation. In general, women have very good conditions to fulfill these assumptions and suggest women as leaders because of the following arguments. Women’s approaches are more attuned to the needs and values of a multicultural environment. This is already shown in kindergarten when girls take over leadership roles such as female employees that are better in dealing with interpersonal relationships and paying attention. In a comparison of male and female leaders by their subordinates, women were rated as having
more idealized influences, more inspirational motivation, more intellectual stimulation and individual consideration than men. This outcome is reflected in the interactive leadership in which people develop personal relationships with followers, share power and information, empower employees and strive to enhance others’ feelings of self‐worth (p. 338). This reflection assumes that leadership style is gender driven, but contrary to expectations, the paper says that the interactive leadership is not gender specific which means that it is not excusive to women. Any leader can adopt the interactive leadership style by paying attention to nonverbal behavior and developing skills such as listening, empathy, cooperation and collaboration.
5. Stages of personal diversity awareness According to the last part, any leader can learn the interactive leadership style. Therefore it helps to keep the stages of personal diversity awareness (p. 344) in mind. The lowest level of awareness is called defense and implies that the person sees differences as threats and uses negative stereotyping. At level two, which is called minimizing differences, the leader tries to hide differences and focuses on similarities among the employees. At stage three, called acceptance, other ways of thinking are recognized and differences are accepted and at level four, adaption, the leader empathizes with people from other cultures and is able to shift from one cultural perspective to another. At stage five, integration, the leader has the highest level of awareness, is able to integrate differences, and this stage stands for the ideal leader. Leaders should use this concept to evaluate themselves, where they can place themselves in order to recognize the possibility for improvement accordingly. Eventually the awareness stages should help global leaders to create diverse organizations and provide equal opportunities for everyone.
Conclusion Although the paper states that diversity is a definite advantage to an organization there is still the question if diversity can also harm an organization. How should diverse people work together in a successful way if they do not understand each other? Success of diverse teams is only guaranteed if the diverse group members know each other, accept differences and know how to work with diverse people. On the other hand it can lead to a lot of problems and disappointments if a diverse team cannot handle diversity. Therefore, there are some suggestions made to advance diversity acceptance like the diversity leadership style or the stages of diversity awareness. These steps are definitely needful and it is necessary to deal with this topic in order to get more acceptances of diverse people, not only in organizations – but also in society, and that topics like glass ceiling will not have to be discussed in future anymore.