Hey Leaders! Celebrate the Differences on your Team

As a leader, it is important to celebrate and appreciate the differences among people.  Expecting people to always be like you, talk like you, and think like you is not constructive. Indeed, there are certain core behaviors and priorities that must be accepted by all members of a team, and they should be exemplified by their leaders.  Courtesy, professionalism, and mutual respect are among them.  But when discussing diversity, we are talking about permitting personal perspectives, opinions, and ways of thinking to bear on the important issues and problems of the day.  Through diversity, we magnify our capacity as teams to recognize and leverage opportunities while mitigating threats.  A team of ten people can have over 150 years of life and work experience that, if allowed to flow freely, can deliver great value for an organization.  But if a leader is not tolerant of diversity and stifles innovation by exerting unnecessary control over interpersonal discourse, then the full potential of a team can never be realized, which means the leader has failed. 

When the unpredictable, bombastic, and sometimes arrogant Donald Trump became President of the United States, he nominated a Secretary a Commerce, Wilbur Ross, who seemed to be everything President Trump was not.  Ross was cautious in giving a message, slow in his delivery, and remarkably thoughtful in answering the questions of the White House Press Corps.  For all the criticisms launched at Trump, Ross’s nomination was evidence that Trump was willing to surround himself with people that were different from him – a trait of many effective leaders.  During one press conference occurring early in the Trump administration, Ross’s thoughtful style allowed him to masterfully answer a series of challenging questions about a highly controversial issue that had erupted in Washington, D.C. and was making news across the country.  Ross’s performance was so impressive that when he left the lectern, one reporter shouted in thanks, “Mr. Secretary, you are welcome back any time.”

Having a variety of different people on our teams and encouraging them to share their perspectives is like having a variety of tools in a toolbox – we get more work done faster and better.  As a leader, you must relax your grip and let go of unnecessary control as much as possible while still accomplishing the mission of your organization.  Do not judge people negatively because they are not like you.  If you feel this way, you are the one that should be judged negatively.  Check yourself by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • Who am I afraid of?
  • What am I trying to protect or hold on to?
  • What do I really lose if I give people a reasonable degree of latitude?
  • Why do I think that I have all the answers?
  • What kind of environment am I creating?
  • If I don’t trust my people, can I really be their leader?

If trusting and encouraging people are ingredients of effective leadership, then letting go of control is the whisk that stirs them together.