What Great Diversity Leaders Don’t Do

Having worked with more than 100 different corporations, I’ve met many diversity executives. No two are alike, but successful ones share many competencies. However, I’m more interested in the things great diversity leaders don’t do. For instance:

They don’t tolerate weak CEO commitment. Top diversity leaders push their CEOs to get involved and personally drive diversity efforts. They don’t do the work for the CEO; they lay out the strategy and let the CEO execute it. And when their CEO isn’t demonstrating commitment, they are not afraid to tell the CEO that he or she needs to do more to have a legacy that fully embraces diversity and inclusion.

They don’t overlook achievement. When progress or improvements have been made, or when a goal has been reached, great diversity leaders never pass up an opportunity to acknowledge achievement. They celebrate even short-term wins so people know their efforts are not only appreciated, but also they’re having a positive impact.

They don’t allow executives to feel sorry for themselves. The best diversity leaders do not allow business executives to feel sorry about their circumstances. They force business leaders to take as much responsibility for driving diversity progress as they do for driving business results. These executives don’t entertain “woe-is-me” conversations often. Instead of allowing executives to feel sorry for themselves, or to get a pass on achieving diversity results, diversity leaders work with executives to accomplish something they can be proud of.

They don’t act powerless. Power is all about the ability to influence behavior, change the course of events, overcome resistance and have control over one’s work environment. Top diversity leaders convey an ability to get things done and find ways to get others to do things they wouldn’t normally do. They turn the diversity leader role into a power role within the organization.

They don’t avoid change. Great diversity leaders are constantly pushing for positive change. They refuse to accept excuses such as “that’s not how we do things around here.” They give clear instructions while supporting the workforce at all levels, and motivating others to push through resistance.

They don’t look back. Strong diversity leaders acknowledge the past and learn from it, but consistently look and press forward. And they help others look forward by creating a positive vision of the future and how diversity and inclusion will help them achieve that vision.

They don’t slow down. When the best diversity leaders hear others say, “We need to slow things down,” they tend to do just the opposite. They defy the tyranny of routine and sluggishness. They don’t wait for the organization to be fully ready for transformational diversity change. They know that when it comes to diversity, doing something today is much better than waiting for tomorrow.

They don’t ignore corporate culture. Top diversity leaders understand that corporate culture — and by association the leaders who represent it — helps to define how employees think, act and behave within an organization. They use a variety of methods to maintain a strong corporate culture, including executive behaviors, reward systems and properly allocated resources to help define a corporate culture that fully embraces diversity and inclusion.

They don’t overlook talent. The best diversity leaders know the easiest way to push diversity initiatives forward is to focus on talent. Organizations compete based on talent. Therefore, these leaders convince their management teams that embracing diversity means they will have access to a much broader pool of top talent, thus they will gain a competitive advantage.

They don’t operate in a vacuum. Great diversity leaders understand the value and importance of benchmarking. Whether it is benchmarking employee resource group initiatives, diversity goals, nonprofit partnerships or diversity metrics, these leaders seek to learn from their colleagues. They know that benchmarking helps them keep a pulse on what is happening externally so they can adapt more effectively internally. Diversity leaders who fail to benchmark do so at their peril.
Sometimes it’s not what you do but what you don’t do that helps you get to, and stay on, the top.

Robert Rodriguez is a president of DRR Advisors LLC, a management and diversity consulting firm, and author of “Latino Talent.” He can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.