A characteristic we all share is that each of is different. Diversity is the life reality of who we are as a collection of unique individuals. This reality presents challenges but also immense opportunities. A Servant Leader is well equipped to address the challenges and to build on the opportunities, particularly in three key areas.
A great way to serve someone is to take down a wall that stands in their way and then turn those blocks to stepping stones. Too often our differences are used to stuff people into boxes and behind labels that senselessly keep them from living the life they are meant to live. A Servant Leader believes that everyone should have an equal opportunity to live into the fullness of who they are as a splendidly unique individual. That which makes a person unique is exactly what the world needs, so if they aren’t allowed to be who they are the whole world suffers. A Servant Leader calls out any discrimination, whether it’s based on readily discernible physical characteristics or more subtle traits, and brings the person forward where they can shine.
Diversity is also important for teams. There is no need to go looking for diversity, it’s everywhere. If you put any two people together you have diversity, so in a team it’s a matter of recognizing the diversity that exists and determining whether you have the elements of diversity necessary for the team to achieve the goal at hand. By focusing first on service to the person the Servant Leader is able to understand each individual on a team and what unique contribution they have to offer. And while allowing each individual to be present on the team as they are the Servant Leader binds the team by bringing them together around a shared story of where they are and where they are going. The Servant Leader does not lose sight of the importance of individual contribution because they know that the primary objective of any team is the growth of each individual, and in this the team as a whole is enriched.
Diversity is also vital to leadership itself. The better you understand our differences, and see the unique contribution that you yourself have to make, the better equipped you are to serve and to lead.
And this is a time that is calling out for Servant Leaders to take a strong lead in embracing diversity. Sadly there are many well intended efforts these days to squelch and hide our differences. The thought is that sameness brings about equality. But the only way it creates equality is that everyone loses. And fear that one person’s uniqueness might offend another person has led to policies that prohibit people from demonstrating that which makes them who they are. This is done out of respect for the potentially offended person but it is in fact a great disrespect to the one who has had their lines blurred. The Servant Leader begins with respect for the individual, as they are, even when they disagree. Yes, even when offended by the actions of another the Servant Leader still respects the person. A Servant Leader creates a culture of service where people are free to reflect who they are and open to respect who others are. We can’t lead people into the fullness of who they can be tomorrow if they don’t even know who they are today.
Find strength in common ground
and energy in diversity.
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