Kathy Hannan

Winning Hearts & Minds: The Battle for Diversity & Inclusion Needs Authentic Leadership (Here’s Where to Start)

Kathy Hannan

Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, KPMG’s national managing partner for corporate responsibility, diversity and inclusion

As a diversity and inclusion executive, I’ve watched many initiatives waver, stall, or at worse, completely fail. What brings about these downfalls isn’t strategy – the ideas are usually sound. The missing ingredient is visible, Authentic Leadership.

Today, we operate in a truly global world. Fortunately, the various value propositions for advancing diversity and inclusion are becoming increasingly clear. Corporate C-Suites, NGOs, Governments, Boards, and Educational Institutions desire more innovation, appreciate the need to drive talent sustainability, or simply see the value of diverse perspectives in problem solving. Additionally, we see the linkage between good governance and diversity, and between risk management and inclusion. Lastly, there is increasing research that demonstrates the positive correlation between diversity and inclusion and performance.

So why aren’t more strong initiatives moving forward? It’s because we’ve not yet won the hearts and minds of many stakeholders. To accelerate change, we need to move beyond grasping the value propositions, articulating the strategy, creating goals and metrics, defining specific accountabilities, or developing corporate slogans or vision statements. Though dialogue and efforts have increased and we are beginning to see progress, we will only be able to move faster through Authentic Leadership.

Authentic Leadershipcan be defined in many ways, but essentially it is a genuine approach to leadership that connects actions to core values and personal convictions. Leaders who do not truly and deeply believe in the mission of the initiative they are driving will never guide the organization to full success. Leaders at all levels must genuinely demonstrate, on a very personal level why as an individual, they personally believe diversity to be important.

One Leader’s Story
Fortunately, I have seen the impact that this type of leadership can have on an organization. One example that comes to mind is that of a specific white male CEO who spoke of his commitment to diversity, his expectations of inclusion and even his establishment of bold goals for the organization. But to the organization it appeared to be rhetoric, another goal amongst many.

To fully win the hearts and minds of individuals within the organization, the CEO shared a personal story that illustrated his own commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The story was simple. He shared how he was the youngest child and the only boy in a large family. He spoke of being aware of the
differences in treatment between himself and his sisters. He shared specific facts of the inequities he witnessed when his extremely capable older sisters entered the workforce.

The CEO’s story became the catalyst for accelerating change within the organization, particularly with respect to the advancement of women.

Individually we are all different, but collectively our impact can be dynamic. You can apply the principles of Authentic Leadership storytelling to your own diversity and inclusion work through the
following quick tips:

  1. Tell a genuine story about
    how you have personally been impacted by diversity in your own voice. Do not read from a script.
  2. Be sure you are deeply involved in the story and not recalling observations from a distance.
  3. Reveal some of the
    personal challenges encountered during your diversity journey.
  4. Ask for reactions or questions.
  5. Share your story often and with various levels and audiences including external constituents.
  6. Be engaged beyond the moment.

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Kathy Hopinkah Hannan is KPMG’s national managing partner for corporate responsibility, diversity and inclusion. She is also a doctoral student in values-driven leadership at Benedictine University.
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