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#ebbfdiversity – event presenter Jeff Lynn on the colours and value of diversity

Jeff Lynn will be offering the “Transformational Leadership as a tool for exploiting diversity” learnshop during ebbf’s annual conference and offers these initial thoughts on the theme of the event. “I’m no artist but I’m guessing that a palette of just one colour would constrain one’s ability to produce great art. Even Malevich changed the colours that he used for his monochromes.

Now, by the very fact that you found this article, you probably see human diversity as a good thing in itself – mainly because you see a lack of diversity requiring exclusion – and that just isn’t just.

However, we are diverse in our experiences and thinking and we currently live in a world where profit and results are the main drivers for most organisations. Diversity will be seen as desirable by some or by others as an imposition. Either way it is usually seen as an add-on. I learnt very early on in my Business …

… Analysis days that anything that is not core to the process tends to be neglected however virtuous the member of staff. I’m afraid that diversity for the sake of diversity will not work – it will always remain a dream of dreamers.

Fortunately there is an organisational model that has the exploitation (in the most positive sense) of diversity at its heart. It does not require anyone to have a compassionate bone in their body. Its goal is effectiveness and efficiency; diversity is simply its means.

Most organisations today are built with bricks of transaction – I will do this if/while you do that. We call them Articles of Association, Contracts, Job Descriptions, Terms of Reference… the list goes on. We think that the organisation is defined by these agreements. We think that the building would fall down if each brick was not perfectly formed and perfectly mortared in its place. We see these bricks as so fundamental that we do not even question the time taken to create, agree, amend, impose, circumvent, manage and police them and seek recompense when they are broken. This is wrong and highly inefficient. Worse, it constrains proactivity, creativity and reactivity. These bricks, although important, are little more than the facade. The real structural components are relationships and common purpose.

When we think of the great leaders of the world and their impact on history, it is not their ability to manage contracts or do deals that we remember; it is the vision that inspired their followers. Transformational Leadership starts with the vision. Not just a Vision Statement but a truly shared vision (see Can a Vision be a truly Shared Vision?). One that when you close your eyes and say out loud, you can see the image and feel how it feels. This brings us back to painting. Such a vision, if written by a single person, will be monochromatic. A vision created with bright, distinctive, complementary and contrasting colours will be inspiring. That’s diversity. An organisation that is driven by such a vision will be able to overthrow the British Raj or abolish Apartheid with minimal action. Diversity becomes the enabler. Something to excite the most hard-nosed, results-oriented, success-driven CEO. A compassionate, motivated, just environment becomes a natural by-product.”

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