Leading Diversity Effectively

Organizational diversity is not just a concept on the horizon, but it is a reality that many organizations are scrambling to understand and react to. Diversity issues are forcing organizations to rethink models of business success and how to align strategies effectively with current and future market realities to achieve growth, profitability, and sustainability. (Martino, 1999; Wheeler, 2001) Due to the emergence of an international labor market, international staff mobility, and a growing number of international students, the diversity organizations are facing is not only in regards to woman and American ethnic minorities. (Mamiseishvili and Rosser, 2010; Van De Bunt‐Kokhus, 2000)

It must go beyond having diversity for the sake of having diversity for most organizations. It must be a benefit for organizations, not only in maintaining a committed and talented workforce, but also leading to improvements in innovation, creativity, problem solving, customer service, and quality. (Kandola and Fullerton, 2003, p. 51) In other words, diversity must benefit the organizations in profit and necessary metrics that necessitate the need to emphasize diversity. (McCuiston, 2004, p. 78)

Leaders seeking to lead such a diverse group of people within the organizational setting must be ready to focus on the development of cross-cultural leaders that will yield a new generation of multicultural professionals. (McCuiston, 2004, p. 78) This will require four fundamental components of effective leadership:

  • A knowledge base which increases sensitivity and awareness of workforce diversities
  • Identification of resources to strengthen and improve the quality of life for diverse individuals
  • Open communication with others about cultural difference
  • Strategies which will enable leaders to serve as change agents to maximize the benefits of a culturally diverse workforce (McCuiston, 2004, p. 78)

What area of diversity seems to be most challenging to integrate as a leader?


Bunt-Kokhuis, V. D., & M, S. G. (2000). Going Places: Social and Legal Aspects of International Faculty Mobility. Higher Education in Europe, 25(1), 47–55.

Kandola, & Fullerton. (n.d.). Diversity in Action: Managing the Mosaic.

Lauring, J., & Selmer, J. (2013). Does Staff Diversity Imply Openness to Diversity? International Journal of Educational Management, 27(6), 631–646.

Mamiseishvili, K., & Rosser, V. J. (2010). International and Citizen Faculty in the United States: An Examination of Their Productivity at Research Universities. Research in Higher Education, 51(1), 88–107.

Martino, J.-M. (1999). Diversity: An imperative for business success. New York, NY: Conference Board.

McCuiston, V. E., Wooldridge, B. R., & Pierce, C. K. (2004). Leading the Diverse Workforce: Profit, Prospects and Progress. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25(Iss. 1), pp. 73–92.

Schwabenland, C., & Tomlinson, F. (2008). Managing diversity or diversifying management? Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 4(Iss 2/3), pp. 320–333.

Wheeler, M. L. (2001). The diversity executive: Tasks, competencies, and strategies for effective leadership. New York: Conference Board.

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