When you hear the word “diversity”, what comes to mind?  Per the Bing dictionary, it can mean a “variety of something such as opinion, color, or style”, it can be “ethnic variety, as well as socioeconomic and gender variety, in a group, society, or institution”, and it can be “a discrepancy, or a difference from what is normal or expected”.

We had the privilege to attend two conferences for Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed business fraternity with brothers from across the country, and in England.  In one of the sessions, the topic of becoming more diverse was identified as a goal.

“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences, our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.”

Judith Henderson

Diversity and Differences . . .

Knowledge, acceptance, and awareness were identified as key factors for becoming more diverse by the fraternity brothers. How accepting are you of differences?  Would you consider yourself and your organization to be diverse?

Before you answer, think about what comes to mind when topics related to diversity and differences surface. Do you think about race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation and disabilities?

Do you also think about accents, education, physical size, spiritual orientation, and political preferences?

Differences are limitless. What’s key is our awareness and respect for how these differences strengthens our team and our organization.

We all have biases and filters. What we suggest is taking the time to examine our biases and recognize the impacts differences have on attitudes and actions with the ultimate goal to appreciate and utilize what’s different.

Dr. Martin Davidson, Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer for the Darden School provides the following:

Diversity has the potential to elevate performance, both individually and collectively. When it is engaged and managed well, difference provides unparalleled benefits in performance, innovation, and satisfaction . . .

Diversity challenges us to examine our values. Real harmony emerges in a diverse community only after the members of that community have challenged one another, listened to one another, felt reactive and frustrated with one another, and experienced empathy and understanding with one another, even when our positions are irreconcilable.

Diversity provides the context for learning inside and outside of our classrooms or offices. The way we effectively enhance our performance and challenge our values is through learning.

We’d like to add to the list of differences.  Have you observed a variety of leadership skills, traits and behaviors within your organization?  Do you relate equally to all styles?  Chances are “no”.

There are many leadership profiles that identify preferred styles. There is no “right or wrong” style, and having a blend makes for a stronger team. Be cognizant of how these differing styles make you feel, and strengthen your team and organization by valuing those differences.

Listen to one another, challenge opposing perspectives, and treat all views respectfully and with an open mind!   Do you appreciate differences?