Who makes a great leader? Those who encourage diversity in big decisions!

With businesses increasingly searching for ways to make their working culture more diverse and inclusive, Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers Corner, looks at why companies should allow employees to have a say in the bigger decisions. It all starts with encouragement from the top – a great leader…

A great leader doesn’t dominate the decision-making process, they encourage it

To my eyes, great leaders have always had one thing in common. They do not lead by making decisions but rather by making sure the decisions required are being made by the right people with support from their leader or manager. This might not be how the business community perceives the great leader, we look for someone who leads from the front, who is decisive and has a clear understanding and vision to make the right choices at the right time.

But is this feasible? Can just one person have the depth of knowledge and expertise to make these decisions?  Surely the strength of the leader is driven by the strength of the collective team that surrounds them. The team should be made up of those who have the expertise to make the relevant decisions required.

The role of the leader is complicated by increasingly prominent cross-generational variances. The drivers of Gen Z are vastly different from the Baby Boomers or from Gen X.  The influence of Millennials seems to be omnipresent, driving all aspects of commercialism and marketing. Yet in the hierarchical nature of society, they are just starting their careers so are not necessarily the decision makers or the leaders. With five different generations in the workplace, and a society striving to embrace diversity, the question must be posed to business about the perception of how decisions should be made.

>See also: Agility through diversity

A collection of viewpoints is a major benefit in a business

If my earlier definition of a great leader is true, then it is also true that a diverse team with the relevant expertise can make great decisions. If such a conclusion extends to incorporate all generations, this would imply that the best way to reach the best decision, must involve different people with different backgrounds from different age groups.  By embracing decision making as a collective process rather than designated to specific people who have, what has historically been known as ‘The Experience’ will the decision reached is right from all perspectives rather than just one viewpoint.

For me, the main benefit of encouraging all employees to have a voice is the possibility of fostering a culture of inclusion. Employees will feel empowered and part of the conversation rather than bystanders who are told what to do. They can celebrate the successes as they were instrumental in them but also share the pain in less joyous times. This is the true aspirational goal of inclusivity, where every person within a company, department and team, are part of the decision-making process. They bring their knowledge, experience and values, and with the platform to contribute, they can help mould a great outcome.

Leadership requires diversity and inclusivity

I understand that my premise may naturally trigger the question: has the need for a leader disappeared? My answer to that is clear, we are at a point – both commercially and socially – where a great leader is increasingly crucial to successful outcomes. The great leader invites all those involved to be part of the conversation. They must balance embracing all voices alongside paying deference to the attributes that the different people in the conversation bring to the table. They must drive their diverse team of individuals to a collective decision where no-one feels left out or distanced. And, most importantly, they must nurture an environment where each individual is personally responsible for the decision made and also feels part of the collective group.

> See also: Why mentoring is important in the modern workplace



Nick Gold

Nick Gold is Managing Director of Speakers Corner, former Chairman of the European Association of Speaker Bureaus and Co-Chair of the 2017 IASB (International Association of Speaker Bureaus).

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