The Importance of Diversity to Leadership

  1. Diversity is key to leadership because it brings so much more knowledge to the table. People from different backgrounds or cultures have experienced vastly different things from one another and thus what’s important to one group of people may not be on the forefront of another group’s concern. Diversity enables leaders to see a wider variety of areas in which improvement is needed and it provides a wider variety of ideas to approach the issue and bring about positive change. Diversity ensures everyone has a say in the project and in leading the project forward. Also, diversity leads to a broader world view and understanding which would not be possible otherwise. Thus, diversity opens more doors for positive change and equality.

2.  In the U.S. where there is tension around diversity, it’s important to teach kids at an early age to appreciate diversity. I was fortunate enough to grow up where diversity was highly valued. My best friend in elementary school was from Nepal and it was always eye opening to learn about her traditions and her language. It was so different from my own, but taught me so much about a part of the world I never would’ve payed attention to if not for her. I also had a classmate in elementary school from Tibet and it was from him that I learned of the struggle for Tibetan independence. I also had many classmates who were from Mexico or their families were. Diversity and community were highly valued at my high school. I graduated realizing all four of my closest friends were bilingual. I feel my own appreciation for diversity arose because of the relationships I formed with these people. I found I learned so much more just in conversation with them than anywhere else. In addition to valuing diversity in the education system, it’s important for people to address their biases and recognize where they come from and how the prejudices they hold are likely not true.

Benefits of Leadership

Should leaders have certain qualities or characteristics?

Leaders should have certain characteristics in common such as respect, determination, openness, and a commitment to make change for the better. However, each leader should have their own unique set of characteristics reflective of their personality. These characteristics would also reflect an individual’s strengths which give rise to a wide variety of leadership styles and opportunities for people. Leadership wouldn’t be such an exciting thing to learn about if everyone had the same qualities or characteristics in their leadership. Respect, determination, openness, and a commitment to positive change are a basis of characteristics all leaders should possess, but beyond that characteristics of leaders can be vastly different from one another.

How do leaders gain credibility?

Leaders gain credibility by gaining respect from other people. Often this comes in the form of building relationships with others. They also gain credibility by having confidence and being dedicated to what they believe in. As in any situation, it’s important for a leader to be themselves. This means their strengths and personality must come through in their leadership style and how they connect with people, otherwise they run the risk of seeming fake and not gaining credibility.

What is the purpose of leadership?

The purpose of leadership in my view is to collaborate with others to make positive change in the community. There’s always a need for positive change in the world and always improvements to be made, and leadership allows that to become a reality. Through collaborations with others, ideas can become strategy which can then be implemented to make the change needed. If people were acting on their own individual accord, it would result in very limited possibilities for creating positive change.

Can individuals who cause harm be leaders?

Individuals who cause harm are often referred to as leaders and I understand why that is. Many of these people are very influential and know how to gain a large following. They are often intellectual and are able to use rhetoric as well as their passion in order to gain credibility from others. However, in my opinion while they may be influential and can gain such large followings, they are not really leaders. This opinion is based on my ideas of a definition for leadership and the purpose of leadership. According to other definitions, they very likely would be considered leaders and in the world-wide view they typically are, but because I feel positive change is at the root of leadership, I cannot view people who cause harm as being true leaders.

Leadership Theories

My Preferred Leadership Theories and Why They’re Important

  • Contingency Theory: This theory states that there is no single “best” way to be a leader. The most appropriate way to lead a group depends on specific situations. I like this theory, because I do think there are a wide variety of ways to lead a group and I’ve found in my own experience, the right path of leadership depends largely on the situation and the assignment at hand. It’s important to acknowledge there is not a ready-made leader mold to fit in order to be a leader. Anyone can be a leader, because there are so many different ways in which one can lead.
  • Leader-Member Exchange: In the leader-member exchange theory, leaders develop personal relationships with each member. I think this aspect of the theory, because I have found knowing the people you’re leading in a personal sense can lead to the best results and creates a positive environment for all to work well together. However, there is an in group and an out group in this leadership theory, which feels very exclusive and is an aspect to the theory that I do not like. However, even with a dislike of that aspect of the theory, I feel relationships are essential to being an effective leader and is still an interesting theory to consider.
  • Social Change Model: This leadership theory is probably my favorite, because it focuses on leadership as a process beginning with self, the group, and then society as a whole in order to make positive social change. This is the model that LEAD follows and I have found it to be quite effective in helping me develop my leadership skills and be more aware of where positive social change is needed. This model is helpful in any situation, because it doesn’t require a large leadership role to put into effect. The knowledge of self is important in any part of life, even just creating life goals. Being able to work in a group is necessary in any career or position held in life, regardless of whether you seem to be taking a leadership role or not. Finally, seeing where change is needed in society can best be done with the ability to know oneself and to work effectively in groups with others.

Further Leadership Research

Further leadership research could include peace studies leadership. A lot of the leadership theories focused on workplace situations or broadly could be applied to a variety of situations. However, I feel there would be something much more specified in regards to leading peace movements for large scale social change in such a way that would encourage better collaboration with people.

Even in general, further leadership research could be more specified on exact leadership positions held and situations that need to be dealt with. For example, I attended a Catholic leadership conference in early January which gave me a very specific set of leadership skills that I am unlikely to use in most other leadership settings. When I used to help coach basketball, my leadership style was very unique and differed greatly from even leadership positions I held at my high school. In this sense, I feel there is a lot of room for research in more specified fields of leadership that may not apply across the board but may end in the best possible results in specific situations. Most of this research would likely be based in already existing leadership theories, however some could potentially give rise to new leadership theories, especially some that may work better on a larger scale.

Me as a Leader

  1. What are my strengths?

Empathy

I use empathy in all of my relationships. It’s how I form friendships with other people and also a large basis of how I am able to get along with others. Since I am able to place myself in their shoes, I am able to understand where they’re coming from and as a result, I am more confident with how to talk and work with them. In on campus activities, such as the Newman Club, this is the strength I use most often when we work at creating a strong community of authentic friendship.

Strategic

This strength enables me to think through the best path to achieve the most effective result. This helps me in school with completing assignments in a timely fashion. It also works hand in hand with empathy to help me determine how best to talk and work with others. In my summer job at a restaurant, I would often have to be strategic in organizing the tasks I had to complete, especially when we got really busy and it would become necessary for me to help the servers and bussers in addition to hosting.

Adaptability

Adaptability is a strength I connect to very personally, because I feel it developed largely from a family situation which has always required me to be very flexible. It is in my family that I use this strength most often. Plans are constantly changing and it helps any situation if I can be flexible and adjust accordingly. This strength also helped me in the work place as I would have to be flexible with costumer needs while still keeping in mind the needs of the servers so as not to over-seat any section and create a stressful environment.

Connectedness

Connectedness is reflective of my religious beliefs. I try to have a strong faith which enables me to get through difficult times. It also makes me believe that we are all connected. As a result of that, I am very respectful of people. Even if I don’t particularly want to work with or spend time with someone, I am able to put aside those thoughts and respect who they are as a person. This creates an effective and respectful environment with limited conflict.

Intellection

Intellection is reflected through my introverted desires. I like to spend time alone, because it does allow me to think without necessarily being distracted by other things. This strength compliments my other strengths as my thoughts are often centered around how I can further build my relationships with others, as well as building a strategic plan to get through all the tasks I need to get through.

2. What are my values?

Compassion

Helpfulness

Hope

Humor

Love

Faith

Creativity

Respect

Patience

Trustworthiness

These values influence my view of leadership by focusing on leading through relationships with others. Because I have always been quiet, I have always preferred the “lead by example” route of leadership. However, to effectively be a leader, it’s important to build up strong relationships with the people you’re working with. Compassion, helpfulness, love, respect, patience, and trustworthiness build up honest and open relationships in which everyone is valued. These relationships are necessary in any community – whether in the workplace or at school or in other organizations. I believe they are necessary to leadership. Creativity and humor add an element of fun, which are necessary so everyone may find a level of enjoyment in the community. Faith and hope are also reflective of my religious beliefs and the environment in which I grew up. They help me, as a leader, keep a positive outlook throughout life, even in difficult situations. Keeping a positive outlook is something I feel is important for any leader and is one of the most encouraging things one can do for others.

3. How do I define leadership?

Leadership is the ability to create a cohesive, cooperative, and welcoming environment in which everyone is known and valued personally so that they can strive together as a community for the betterment of society.

This definition has changed since beginning LEAD to emphasize the relationships needed in leadership. When I started LEAD, even though I believed I could still be a quiet leader and lead by example, I was nonetheless under the impression that the most effective leaders are the leaders with the loudest voice. However, through LEAD, I have come to understand the importance of relationships to leadership – it’s about knowing one another’s strengths and finding ways to work together respectfully and compassionately in order to move forward.

4. What skills and abilities have I gained through LEAD?

I have gained many skills through LEAD, beginning with having an awareness for my strengths and my abilities. This will be extraordinarily useful as it helps me to be more confident and recognize what jobs and tasks I have the resources to do. Knowing my strengths will help me in all my relationships and in any future job or activities, because I will know how best to connect with others and how best to get the job done. I have also learned interview skills, networking skills, how to write a cover letter, and how to build a resume. These skills will help me in any job I apply for in the future. Last summer I applied for a summer job and did secure a position at a restaurant, however now I know how to improve my application materials for future opportunities. I will need these skills as I look for internship opportunities and possible editing positions as I begin my career as a writer.

I’ve also improved my goal setting abilities and have learned stress relievers, which have assisted in my academics and time management. These skills will continue to help me in school, but they will also help me in future jobs to ensure I stay on top of deadlines and meet specific writing goals.

Facilitation and public speaking have helped me as I begin to take on a larger leadership role with the Newman Club, as well as in the classroom. Learning about delegation has helped me with group projects and is sure to help in the future when I need to work with others in my career. Learning about conflict mitigation will also be extremely useful in the future in my ability to work with others. Costumer service will continue to be very useful as I likely will return to my restaurant position over the summer and/or if I get a job on campus that will require me to work with others.