Seeking out diverse perspectives can give leaders an important edge in today’s world. Whether embarking on a enterprise-wide initiative or making decisions that will impact a unit, institution, or community, diverse perspectives can give us the information we need to be more effective. They can keep us honest, keep us from moving into groupthink, and provide a resource to sharpen our thinking and lead to innovative solutions. As leaders, we can truly benefit from a diversity of perspectives!
So how can we as leaders seek out diverse perspectives? Here are a few ideas from the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. They advise leaders to:
- Encourage contributions from everyone and give voice to individuals and constituencies not in the room. Those in the room may need to represent stakeholders who are not present.
- Acknowledge the impact of power and privilege on who speaks and who listens in groups. Be mindful of the status that is accorded to a person because of her or his position, race, ethnicity, economic class background, sexual orientation, gender, religion, ability/disability, education, expertise, and/or profession.
- Practice respect for others. Listen deeply. Acknowledge and accept difference of opinions. Discern when to voice differences and when to hold them lightly.
- Appreciate the constructive value of conflict. While conflict can feel hard or uncomfortable, helping a group move through conflict can result in better outcomes for everyone. Learn to tolerate and work through it, rather than smooth it over or ignore it.
Think of a group you lead that has some diversity. Consider who speaks in the group. Who has the most “air-time?” Is everyone heard? In your leadership role, how can you enable every participant to contribute fully?