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Let People Be Different

Mind the dip! Ostrich, near Omuramba, Kunene, ...Image via Wikipedia

David Grayson said, "Commandment number one of any truly civilized society is this: Let people be different." And why not? People ARE different!

For some reason, we can be uncomfortable with people and groups different from ourselves, but we find extreme differences within the animal kingdom as intriguing. Think about it. When it comes to survival, the ostrich seems to lack good sense, has eccentric parenting habits, and can't fly even though it has wings. But it can run 60 mph for 30 minutes to survive a predator.

We appreciate that in the ostrich. But equally as remarkable is the bombardier beetle, which survives by carrying twin storage tanks on its back of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone. When threatened, the bombardier beetle mixes those chemicals together, shoots them through a special nozzle and blinds their foe. Now that's also a strategy worthy of admiration.

To survive and thrive in today's global marketplace, it's important that leaders see diversity within their workforce as key. Markets are more diverse. The labor pool is more diverse. And almost every global company's greatest opportunities are in cultures different and more diverse than its home country's. Managing global diversity well starts with understanding and embracing small, local diversity.

As a leader, do you:

  • manage all kinds and classes of people equitably?
  • hire variety and diversity without regard to class?
  • deal effectively with all races, nationalities, cultures, disabilities, ages and both genders?
  • support equal and fair treatment and opportunity for all?

To truly let people be different -- and recognize and embrace and leverage those differences -- you'll want to:

  • understand without judging those who are different from yourself,
  • see people more as individuals and less as a member of a group,
  • recognize your own subtle stereotyping and biases, and
  • be able to make a business -- and personal -- case for diversity.

Differences are good. Mark Twain put it this way: "It is not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horseraces." The same can be said for successful enterprises.

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