Leveraging Diversity: Cultivating Opportunities by Creating Relationships with Diverse People

When George Washington traveled into the Ohio Valley as a young man representing his home colony of Virginia, it’s unlikely that he had identified Leveraging Diversity as a skill he would need in order to accomplish his mission.  Yet, through his interactions with the Native American tribes and local experts on the frontier, Washington not only survived but also gained valuable social and relational skills that would serve him well in the future.

Leveraging Diversity is an important ability to acquire in modern times too.  As one of twenty-five EQ (Emotional Quotient) characteristics, it also happens to be part of everyone’s social competence.  In LEADon® terminology, Leveraging Diversity is all about cultivating opportunities by creating relationships with diverse people.  This certainly can mean connecting with individuals from different racial and/or ethnic groups, but it also relates to people outside one’s normal circle of family, friends, coworkers, and clients.

For instance, during the Revolutionary War, George Washington utilized both civilians and soldiers in America’s struggle for independence.  Some of those ordinary countrymen and women became part of an invaluable group of spies that provided significant intelligence to leaders of the American forces (read more in Brian Kilmeade’s 2013 book George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution). In addition, Washington capably interacted with foreign diplomats, especially the French, who aided in the pivotal battle at Yorktown (Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2018 book In the Hurricane’s Eye:  The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown examines how Washington and his fellow leaders learned to leverage diversity).

It’s essential to note that Leveraging Diversity is not about manipulation or misusing one’s power.  Instead, this unique EQ characteristic requires you to develop relationships—more of a “I need you, you need me” interaction whereby everyone involved can benefit from mutual appreciation and application of strengths and abilities.  In Washington’s time, such relationships were a matter of life and death.  For leaders today, the long-term success or potential failure of their business objectives and Corporate Family® as a whole may very well depend on developing strong relationships with people from different backgrounds and experiences.

As a leader, how can you determine your level of ability when it comes to Leveraging Diversity?  Here are some specific strategies to consider implementing:

  1. If you haven’t done so yet, take the Developing Emotional Competency Questionnaire® (DECQ®).  This thirty-minute online assessment will provide you with a detailed report of how you score in all twenty-five EQ characteristics, including Leveraging Diversity.
  2. LEADon University® offers over thirty online courses that will assist you and your team in developing essential leadership skill sets. For Leveraging Diversity, we recommend you take these courses:
  • LEADing by Coaching and Mentoring®
  • LEADing the Generations®
  • Corporate Culture’s Bottom Line Impact on Your Corporate Family®
  1. Ask your mentor or people from your professional or personal “sphere of influence” to give you feedback based on the following questions:
  • Do I build collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with people regardless of their individual differences?
  • Do I adjust my communication and behavior based on an understanding of individual differences? If so how? How would you recommend I improve?
  • Do I exhibit an understanding of individual differences in order to communicate with, influence, and manage individuals in my professional life? In my personal life?
  • Do I recognize and communicate the value of diverse perspectives?
  • Do I foster an environment of inclusion, where diverse thoughts are freely shared, respected and integrated? Give an example of when I’ve exceled at this.  Share an example of when I could have been more inclusive.

(Visit https://hr.nih.gov/competency/leveraging-diversity for other potential questions that can help you assess your EQ abilities when it comes to Leveraging Diversity).

Cultivating opportunities by creating relationships with diverse people allowed George Washington to achieve in extraordinary ways, and this not only positively impacted his life but also countless others around him.  The same can be true for you and your leadership today.  If you’d like assistance in Leveraging Diversity—or any other leadership development concern—please contact the LEADon® team at 858.592.0700 or at www.LEADonUniversity.com.