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The Forgotten Element of Diversity

When people talk about diversity in the workplace the discussion is usually around race, gender, religious affiliation and sexual orientation. What is often overlooked is intellectual diversity and diversity of thought.

If everyone one your team thinks alike, you are in trouble. You will have blind spots that no one sees. If people do see them, no one talks about them because no one wants to be labeled as the “contrarian thinker”.

When you are building a team do you consider intellectual diversity and diversity of thought? It is possible to put together a team of people who on the surface may not appear to be diverse, but have diverse educations, diverse experiences, diverse views of the world, diverse perspectives and diverse ways of thinking.

It is not enough however to have intellectual diversity in a team if people are not comfortable speaking up and expressing their thoughts, ideas and experiences to challenge the status quo and the group think that may be creeping in. In a previous post I talked about the importance of Psychological Safety, and the caution about letting that become just another buzzword. The key with diversity of thought is that people are encouraged to not only think differently, but also to speak up, ask questions, or suggest a different solution. Diversity of thinking requires a culture of candor and curiosity in order to thrive and drive innovation and creativity.

Good leaders accept that they do not have to have the answers. The best leaders often have more questions than answers. They are willing to say, “Tell me why this idea sucks.” They are willing to ask, “What do you think?” In his Leading With Questions Newsletter Bob Tiede explains that his four favorite questions for leaders to ask are, “What do you think? What else? What else? What else?”

Good leaders build teams that embrace all elements of diversity and then create a culture of candor and curiosity, which encourages and fosters discussion, dialogue, debate and questions. This takes humility on the part of the leader. This is one of the reasons I believe curiosity is an important trait for a leader.

Stay curious. Seek out people who think differently. Embrace diversity of thought as a key element of diversity.  And keep asking questions.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at