There has never been a greater time to speak and act upon diversity and inclusion. The global atmosphere is getting tense and it is becoming increasingly impossible for humans to co-live or co-work together. Whereas the majority of interventions on diversity and inclusion have been fixated on mending external factors i.e behavior and numbers, we have failed at placing the individual at the forefront of the change we eagerly desire.

A study conducted by BCG on leadership and transformation confirmed that out of 85% of companies that embark on a transformation path, at least 75% of them fail before reaching their goal. The most prominent and undetected factor contributing to failure was resistance.

Resistance is a very human behavior rooted in the fear of the unknown, the fear of ?what ifs.?

What then? What happens when we are faced with resistance? Shall we pull back and say, ?This is not going to work? and off we go?  

I believe we need a new model, one which will start with the self.

As a leader, it is important to start with the self because you/we do have the power and influence to shift the atmosphere. Raising the degree of your consciousness on the power of your voice, vision, and values, will be critical if you want to make a difference in the sphere of diversity and inclusion.

Here is how I believe you can start shifting your mindset :

Be an individual but think as part of the collective

Our businesses, projects, and programmes neither operate nor exist in a vacuum, we are well knitted in the societies we operate in. Therefore, every activity presumed as external affects us internally in one way or another. There is no escape. Similar to leading teams or groups of people, everyone in your direct control will come into the space of communal work with their ideas, their ways of doing and being. As a leader you are not and should not be disconnected from your team, you feed on each other?s energy, knowledge, and insights. You are one but part of the collective and together you mold your organisation’s or team?s flair. However, since you hold a center position, your energy in terms of beliefs and values has more power than anyone else.

Set high-level individual boundaries.

Individual boundaries are often informed by our worldview and the interactions we have had as we evolve in the world. Internally we are aware of which lines we will not cross as individuals and often times we find that we cannot also cross those lines when we interact with others. Setting boundaries as a leader matters because you are the source through which every facet of your organisation or team is being built upon. Because of your boundaries, everyone else who comes next will know where and how to align. Ask yourself these two questions on the many facets of life and society.

1. What is my worldview on e.g. (disability, gender, race, class, sexuality,  parenting and more )  and 2. which line will I not cross?

The sooner you become conscious of your boundaries, the easier it will be for you to detect whose boundaries you are not able to entertain, as a leader.

Practice gratitude.

You probably did not think about diversity from the get-go but your products or ideas are being consumed and used by a diverse group of people in the world. Your teams are made of people who have at least one different trait from one another. The difference, in other words, diversity, is what makes your product or projects succeed. Show and practice gratitude for the gift that is diversity. An HBR study on gratitude shows that developing a sense of gratitude helps teams do and be better equipped to develop a bond that can get them through difficult moments. As a founder, creator or leader, gratitude should flow out of you for this world that has embraced your vision. Once you do that, watch your gratitude spread like wildfire.

Challenge your ego and drop the fear

How conscious are you of the underlying reasons for every behaviour you project in relation to others? Our ego was born when we realized that we were an individual and that we needed to put ourselves first by protecting our interests, our resources and ideas before anyone else. Unfortunately, you can not get rid of your ego, but you can guide it and challenge it on most days. Especially on those days where you feel your control is on shaky grounds. There are enough resources to go around. Acknowledging the intelligence in that colleague on your team or project will not somehow make you any less intelligent. Always think like Yogi Bhajan-  who said ?When ego is lost, limit is lost. You become infinite, kind and beautiful.?

To practice all this, create a journey map

Similar to how you create your product and project journey maps, you should create a diversity and inclusion journey map for yourself and for the people you are leading. At what point will you declare yourself diverse and inclusive? Where will you start? What would be your personal milestones? If you cannot do it, do not ask anyone else to do it.

?True navigation begins in the human heart. It’s the most important map of all.? Elizabeth – Kapu’uwailani Lindsey

In closing

Diversity and inclusion will only work when we begin to embrace the two concepts from a mindset and not a behavior perspective. Whether you are an emerging leader or on your way in business and government, your response or lack therefore to diversity is shaping our world and those directly connected to you. Raising your personal level of consciousness on what is going on around you and how you can embrace an internal- self-change model could be more effective than all programmes you have ever tried to implement. The truth is that we are already diverse as a society and the world at large, and so we should no longer ask what is diversity and inclusion, but ask how do we make it a personal daily living mantra.

Disclaimer: Views and thoughts in this article are my own and a reflection on a personal journey. Studies mentioned and quotes have been referenced independently, meaning the writers are not directly linked to my ideas.