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A Crucial Question: Is This All About HR? Or Daily Leadership?

Does DEI belong in the space of HR/People & Culture? Some questions and considerations for all leaders.

Are you holding a ten-foot pole?

First, an acknowledgment that some folks may not feel comfortable touching this week’s question with a ten-foot pole, so to speak. But if you’re open, I would really like to hear your thoughts, insights and observations from a leadership perspective.

Remember that leadership can refer to a formal leadership perspective or an informal or self-leadership perspective. It’s all leadership, after all.

Here’s the question

Well, questions, plural.

  • Does discussion about equity and meaningful diversity belong in the realm of hiring and HR generally?
  • Or does it also belong in day-to-day discussion in leadership circles?
  • And a follow-up for those who haven’t clicked off of this article yet! If you’re of the opinion that discussions of diversity and equity belong in the day-to-day of leadership, what are your thoughts on what that actually looks like in the workplace?

There are a couple of different perspectives on this topic, and I’m always interested in thinking through the range of perspectives on this myself, and would encourage you to do the same.

If you have the time, there is are some thoughts to guide your contemplation of these questions.

If you don’t have the time to even think about any of this

If you don’t have the time, my own thinking is that I believe discussions of meaningful diversity and equity belong in daily leadership writ large – but that it comes at a very real cost.

Perhaps we can talk more about the costs in a future post, but for now, I would encourage to question why you believe you do not have the time.

There is always urgency. And yet, urgency and importance are not the same thing. They’re just not. High-quality leaders with a growth understand this and act on it.

If you have time

Here are a couple examples of perspectives that I’ve observed.

While some folks may want to agree that discussions of equity and diversity belong in leadership and organizational discussions, mindset, behaviours and values writ large, the reality is that existing systems also have a great deal of momentum.

And even when some folks may have the best of intentions, systems change can feel very uncomfortable (which is natural, by the way). The problems can feel far too big to resolve, and there are always so many existing operational demands and insufficient people and resources, so some folks focus on doing good work on their own subject matter in their organization.

Other people believe that the greatest impact in removing barriers and improving equity outcomes in organizations is in the hiring process. Perhaps for that reason, folks with this perspective tend to believe that it does make sense to concentrate diversity, equity and Indigenization discussion and efforts in the realm of HR.

There are other folks like myself who apply an anti-oppressive lens to their leadership as a whole.

This approach may perhaps be most aligned with the intentions of organizational statements on diversity, anti-racism, etc.

However, I’m sure some of us have noticed that applying this lens adds further complexity, can present the impetus for change and uncertainty, and in general, can be seen as adding to the weight of demands when everyone is just trying to deliver on their foundational responsibilities. And of course, there can be other costs (especially for those of us who are already “othered”). Perhaps you’ve experienced some of these.

If you made it this far

If you’ve made it this far in this article – wow! Thanks for listening and thinking critically about these topics. Your growth mindset is exactly what organizations and this world need.

You can find more leadership articles here.

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