Leaders have a unique role to play in creating the environments where diversity can be a benefit rather than a cause for division.
Every day, the world gets a little more connected.
In 2010, about 1.9 billion people were using the internet; just 6 years later that number grew by 60% to 3.2 billion (itu.int).
Despite the efforts from various governments to regulate or censor information shared across the internet, our knowledge of other cultural contexts continues to increase. Along with internet growth, cell phones use is multiplying rapidly. Astonishingly, according to Global Giving, more people in the world have access to a cell phone than a toilet.
Not only are we increasingly virtually linked, but we are also physically interacting across national and cultural boundaries more than ever. In 2017, the airline industry added 500 new flights between international cities that didn’t have flights before. Last year, there were 258 million international migrants worldwide, up from 170 million in 2000 (un.org).
Collaboration and cooperation across cultural lines
All these expanding networks of interaction mean that leaders increasingly find themselves in more diverse communities and organizations. Pastors are seeing the shifting demographics in their communities and realizing their congregations are not reaching those new people. Teachers are experiencing the growing ethnic diversity in their classrooms. Sales managers are tasked with growing their companies’ international footprint. Coaches of their child’s sports teams are trying to navigate the different cultural backgrounds of the families participating.
As a result, the ability to encourage collaboration and cooperation across cultural difference is becoming a prerequisite for leading in today’s global society.
It is true that working with diversity is not easy. We will need to listen …