Why you need diversity of personality at board level

Businesses are hindering their D&I and bottom line by lack of boardroom diversity, says Parke

Despite reaching impressive milestones, the recent push towards greater diversity in boardrooms is all too often defined by ‘external’ pressure, either from consumers or business associates. The concern here is that many businesses still consider c-suite level diversity as a ‘tick-box’ responsibility, rather than an essential next step for growth. With this attitude, businesses are not only failing to achieve diversity at the top level, but they are also failing to explore what diversity can achieve for business competitiveness. Diversity truly is a strength for business, but in order to realise this, businesses will need to expand their understanding of what a ‘board-ready’ candidate really is, and instead embrace the potential of ‘diversity of personality’.  

‘Alpha-male culture’

While outright discrimination still plays a major role in producing and maintaining un-diverse boards, the pervasiveness of the all-white/all-male boardroom is also a result of our popular understanding of corporate leadership, and the stereotypes and preconceptions that come with it.

Regardless of sector, business ‘leaders’ – and those that are ‘board-ready’ – often express a similar set of recognisable characteristics; usually that of a head-strong and competitive ‘alpha’ male.

The prevalence of this mode of expression in top positions stems from the historic dominance of white males in leadership roles, who in turn trust and respect similar traits in their peers and successors, often subconsciously. The push for greater diversity has already began to home in on the prevalence of this mode of expression. Official committees, such as the Treasury Select Committee, specifically mention a need to cut down on ‘alpha-male’ culture in order to improve diversity on the board.  

Not only does an overrepresentation of this personality type drastically hamper diversity efforts, but it also harms what your business can achieve. 

The impact on business growth

Under these expectations’ businesses limit the diversity of both their board, and their target customer. With this finite view of ‘leadership’, brands throttle the pool of talent that may produce value in steering the ship a different way, perhaps through more collaborative and indirect methods.  

All this undoubtedly has a negative influence on growth. Your company should be reflective of your customer, and by limiting core idea generation to a select perspective, you limit the company’s ability to target new audiences.  

True diversity can only be achieved once businesses begin to understand the value that different perspectives, backgrounds, and approaches can bring – the invisible diversity. In doing so, businesses will empower employees outside of the ‘white-male’ bracket to contribute their ideas, knowing they will be heard. In a future where ideas are everything, competition is fierce, and where audiences are as discerning as ever, diversity really is strength.  

Chris Parke is CEO at Talking Talent Group, an organisation that is committed to developing the female talent pipeline in business.

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