“Diversity is a double-edged sword. It can promote creativity, but also lead to dissatisfaction” (S. Pols, Searching for a new leadership discussion, July 8, 2013).
As our Leadership and Technology course at the University of Calgary discussed diversity and its role on transforming complex system, I questioned how an effective leader approaches diversity. This led me to ask the question, does there not need to be an underlying shared value amongst a diverse group for the group to function? Dr. Eugene Kowch (2013a, July 8) reaffirmed my answer by stating “yes”. However, the larger the group, particularly when leading from a macro position, the more difficult it is to find that shared value. Arguably, success will hinge upon that ability to find that common order value.
In the field of education, teachers are contextually diverse (Kowch, 2013b). For example, when one looks at a high school, teachers are themselves specialized; they teach history, math, science, languages, or health, to name a few. Beyond this, each teacher has his or her own unique skills, values and ideologies (Kowch, 2013b). Within one school, the diversity is evident. Multiply this by the number of schools and factor in the differing school missions and values, and we have a complex system with a diverse staff. As a leader, where does one begin to harness the tension and create a group that can connect regardless of their differences? How do we find and connect that underlying common shared value?
For education, that underlying value can be discovered. As Sarabeth Asis (Searching for a new leadership discussion, July 8, 2013) identified, most professionals have chosen their career path for the shared value of truly wanting to make a difference for their students and/or society. This value can have tremendous impact on approaching dissatisfaction created by diversity if leadership can reconnect a diverse staff to their common values. This will take skill of the leader. Identifying when there is enough tension to move forward before it becomes volatile, and providing the right supports, will help the complex organization emerge in a new direction. However, this form of leadership is not easy. Direction must move to focus on the macro level of organizational transformation. But are our leaders ready for this? Do we have the skills to lead diverse groups of people and transform?
Yes we do. Now is the time to begin approaching diversity when a complex organization is in disequilibrium, harness the potential, and transform our epistemology so we become more resilient for what the future holds.
As Dr. Kowch said at the end of class: “This is what we are here for – the create the next generation of leadership.”
Kowch, E. (2013a, July 8). Searching for a new leadership. Leadership and technology. Lecture conducted from the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.
Kowch, E (2013b). Towards leading diverse, adaptable and “smarter” organizations that learn. In J. Lewis, A. Green & D. Surry (Eds.), Technology as a tool for diversity leadership: Implementation and future implications (pp. 1-34). New York: IGI Global.