Leadership Development and Inclusion
How do we select candidates for leadership development programs? Once we have them, what and how do we train them?
Our answers to these questions need to be shared and talked about if we are going to improve inclusiveness in our leadership development efforts. I’m making a call for you to share your thoughts on Facebook, LinkedIn, via email and by making a comment on the blog.
Here is my take.
There is a growing awareness of diversity issues, cultural competency and inclusion. We are all making efforts to be more inclusive in our leadership development programming, if for no other reason than the philanthropic community and government funding are making representational leadership a requirement. I believe that beyond funders’ criteria, there is a genuine desire among leaders to become more diverse. There are plenty studies that show the benefits of creating diverse teams; creativity increases, more energy is brought to the group, and participant satisfaction is improved. However, broadly speaking, current leadership teams struggle with the nuts and bolts of becoming more inclusive and representative of the people we serve.
Typically, leaders look to people they know to seek out candidates. In some cases, though rarely, there may be a more formal search process. This means that the search occurs primarily at a very high level, meaning that candidates are recruited from individuals that have obtained a certain status level within the community. They may have advanced degrees, head successful businesses, are seen as leaders of target populations (ministers, politicos, etc.). The assumption is that these individuals who have distinguished themselves (1) have capabilities or significant promise necessary to participate on the leadership team and may bring added value to the deliberative process, and (2) they are representative of the target population and therefore counts toward achieving the team’s diversity goals.
My view is that, while leadership teams should be applauded for their efforts, this approach falls short of inclusion goals. I refer to this as the “creaming approach.” As cream rises to the top of raw milk and may then be scraped off the top of the bottle, so goes this leadership development approach. Individuals who have risen to the top of targeted populations are scraped off and nominated for leadership roles. Often, these nominated individuals are admitted into leadership development programs designed to better arm them to function within societal leadership norms. Graduates of these programs are deemed to be better equipped; more likely to make and take advantage of networks, understand the structures and systems in place that regulate the flow of resources, and view social/economic issues from a leader’s perspective. In essence, this approach widens the gap between our newly accepted leaders and the people they are said to represent.
The newly ordained leader may have been predestined to stand out from the crowd due perhaps to both nature and nurture factors. The effects of these factors tend to create space between the individual and her natural community, however it may be defined. Factor effects are demonstrated by perceptions and behaviors at conflict with her community’s societal norms. It is these very same perceptions and behaviors which strain relationships within her community are viewed as desirable and valued traits among existing leadership teams.
So, do traditional inclusion efforts truly lead to providing equitable representation at the leadership table? What are you doing to deal with this? What can be done differently?
Leadership Development and Inclusion