- Impactful Leadership in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
A lot has been said and written about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) professionals and what makes them successful. The research that is available on this subject is thought provoking, insightful and actionable. So, when I decided to write this piece, I wondered to myself what could I bring to you that hasn’t already been said and written. If I had to keep you engaged through this three-minute read, what would it take? After all, a present reader investing their time is every writer’s dream!
I was both privileged and grateful to have been a part of ODA’s Inclusion and Diversity program this year. Each one of us in the program came from different backgrounds and industries and our motivations for being on the course were about just as diverse as the number of learners. But the most meaningful value add for me was that each one of us is at a different stage in our journey with regards to this area and by the virtue of that, the learnings and experiences were more well-rounded than if we were speaking about the same challenges and opportunities.
The course was reflective in many ways, very often challenging what is known and accepted. But also, in discovering our own selves and who we are as champions of this field that is only getting more complex with every passing day. As a result, I decided that I will write about how I have come to understand myself in the context of what might make one impactful in the space of DEI.
The first reflection for me is developing the capacity to challenge and be challenged. No, it doesn’t work one way! A very big part of this space is questioning the knowns, discovering the unknowns, and allowing for the two to have an equal space in the journey. Every so often during the course, what I thought I knew or assumed to be a certain way, was either taken apart to be further evaluated or entirely shattered simply because my thought process wasn’t inclusive. And through that process, I discovered ‘new maps of thinking’. And that’s the essence of inclusivity and power of diversity, isn’t it? I have strongly come to believe that we need people around who can challenge us and who we, in-turn, could challenge to take both, baby steps and giant leaps, in our respective DEI journeys.
The second learning is the case for DEI. Every organization makes its own case for DEI – business, sociological or legal. They are very often in twos or in some cases, the whole triad. Again, it’s a journey that starts with one case and others get added with time, progress and extraneous variables that drive it. That said, it’s hard (even unrealistic) for any one DEI professional to have equal expertise across all three. However, what I do believe is that DEI professionals to be successful need to have collaborative environments that brings all three views to them. Being able to appreciate what drives the case of DEI through the lens of business, sociological and legal can create a meaningful, sustainable and possibly wide-spread impact both internally and externally in the society.
The third reflection and very personal to me is harnessing the power of PAUSE. Anyone who is familiar with Viktor Frankl’s work, will recall this very famous quote of his – “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Every waking second of our lives today demands a response, an action. This expected response becomes that much more challenging and nuanced in the complex DEI world. One statement, one decision, one gesture, one belief has the potential to take us forward or several years behind in the DEI journey. And hence, allowing ourselves to take that pause and be okay with it, could just be what we need sometimes for growth and meaningful change.
As I wrote earlier, there is a wealth of existing literature and research around what makes DEI professionals impactful and successful. Writing this piece has been something of a journey for myself and I hope you find something of value here.