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Beth A. Brooke

Beth A. Brooke

Beth A. Brooke is Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement at Ernst & Young and is a member of the firm’s Global Management Group and a member of its Americas Executive Board.

The diversity we need

Q: In appointing a new Supreme Court Justice to replace John Paul Stevens, President Obama was seeking someone who could provide intellectual and personal leadership of the liberal block. His gamble in nominating Elena Kagan is bringing in someone from outside the 'priesthood' of appeals-court judges. What are the advantages and disadvantages of selecting a leader with non-traditional qualifications?

The advantages and the disadvantages of selecting a leader with non-traditional qualifications are the fresh perspectives they bring to familiar problems. While it may invite a friction of dissent, it produces creativity and innovation.

In business today, or across any sector of society, we are seeing the power of diverse perspectives being cultivated by inclusive leaders to produce usually powerful outcomes. I'm not talking about diversity in its traditional lens of gender, ethnicity, etc. I mean the diversity in human experiences that cause people to approach familiar situations with different perspectives.

Existing research is compelling for the case it makes that better outcomes are consistently achieved by a problem-solving group consisting of diverse perspectives. Such a group is proven to repeatedly outperform a homogeneous group of like-minded individuals. Yet in the face of that evidence, we all too often continue to see leaders surrounding themselves with others who look like them, think like them and act like them. Research would suggest the insanity in such an approach but we see it being repeated every day.

It is refreshing when leaders or institutions step outside the safety of the traditional to embrace the innovation that can arise from the friction of dissent among differing perspectives. Leaders steeped in diplomacy and an understanding of the need to see situations from all perspectives excel in this global world today.

By Beth A. Brooke

 |  May 10, 2010; 3:13 PM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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