Diversity Leadership: A Necessity for the Future

Diversity Leadership: A Necessity for the Future

Joél Lewis (University of South Alabama, USA) and Daniel W. Surry (University of South Alabama, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2668-3.ch001
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Abstract

This introductory chapter covers the need for professionals in all sectors to embrace and adopt diversity leadership practices. This imperative outlook on how we use technology to connect, communicate, solve problems, and educate is explored in order to provide an overview of diversity leadership. It also addresses the main ideas of the chapters in the book.
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What Is Diversity Leadership?

When mentioning the title of this book, people often ask, “What is diversity leadership?” One basic response is “Leading with diversity as the center principle.” It normally takes a few examples and further explanation for people to understand it. Considering that diversity leadership is a relatively new term, defining it is necessary to increase its acceptance as a discipline and to foster its increased application in organizations. Diversity leadership is not a new concept to the many professionals who practice it, however some professionals are implementing diversity leadership but not labeling their work as such. Using the term diversity leadership is essential to its development as a practice and to the establishment of its foundation in research. There is a need for an increase in research on both leadership and diversity in theoretical and methodological approaches to leadership (Lumby & Coleman, 2010). Organizations that have diversity leadership at the core of their values are evident by their ability to innovate valuing different perspectives and to reflect the communities they serve.

This is not the first time a former component of leadership has moved to the forefront to become a type of leadership. Servant Leadership is an excellent example of how a type of leadership is based on a former component of leadership. Robert Greenleaf envisioned leadership based on being a servant to those you lead (Greenleaf, 1998). This concept has been well received and is practiced widely in all sectors of society. Very similarly, diversity leadership is based on developing values, strategic plans, and engagement based on diversity. There is vast amount of literature and research in both leadership and diversity but research that combines both is difficult to find (Lumby & Coleman, 2010). Diversity and inclusion should be emphasized in leadership theories (Chin, 2010). Due to the lack of emphasis of diversity in leadership, there is plethora of work to be done on diversity leadership in terms of theory, research, and practice.

Diversity and Leadership

Diversity and leadership separately are not new concepts, however changing populations, advances in technology, developing theoretical perspectives, and the need for 21st century collaborations have led to the emergence of this type of leadership. Looking at these concepts separately is one way to approach defining diversity leadership as a discipline. Diversity is often narrowed down to ethnicity and race. However, the Diversity Dictionary defines diversity as “A situation that includes representation of multiple (ideally all groups) within a prescribed environment…” Within the context of this book, diversity refers to the wide range differences within any population (Lumby & Coleman, 2010). There are many perspectives of leadership that have been used for decades. Stoghill’s (1950) perspective is that “Leadership must be viewed from standpoint of influence on organizational activity, rather than on group members” (p. 3). Ulrich and Smallwood (2012) assert that “Leadership occurs when the organization builds a cadre of future leaders who have the capacity to shape an organization's culture and create patterns of success” (p. 9). When referring to leadership in this book, our thinking will be in line with Rost (1991) who wrote “Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes” (p. 6).

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