How to Lead Diverse People

A leadership position will require you to lead diverse people. The word diverse means “a point of difference.” Each person is different primarily because we each have been uniquely created. You are one of a kind. Beyond that major point come people with a variety of ethnicities, races, religions, life styles, cultural differences, backgrounds and life experiences.

Diverse people are in every gathering place: the work place, church, community events, or in the grocery store. Whether it’s a small group (2-25 people) or larger group (25+) the diversity of each individual will shine through. To effectively lead people requires the ability to lead diverse groups and teams. Leading diverse people will require:

Raising your awareness

Look around and become aware of the differences of your people. Awareness will allow you to see the differences in each of your people.

Becoming knowledge

Take time to study and learn about different cultures, religions, and customs. Especially those you are leading. One of the best ways to learn about diversity is to get outside of your comfort zone and experience what your city and the world has to offer. While taking a culture class in college one of the things the instructor did was have the entire class eat at a traditional Indian restaurant. This allowed us to experience the food, music, dancing of this group of people and to learn about some of the culture of India.

You can raise your diversity knowledge by eating at a traditional style restaurant, traveling around the world, going to a culture specific store, museum or market in your city, or attending a church service that is outside of your religions denomination. Most major cities have a wide range of places you can experience which will allow you to learn about the differences of people.

Connecting with each person

Take time to meet individually with your people so that you can connect and learn about them. John Maxwell said, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A component to them knowing you care comes when you take the time to learn, value, and appreciate someone’s diversity. Learn about their culture, customs, and life experiences. Focus on the areas of common interest. This will show the person you care and value them.

Question: What do you do to lead diverse people?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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32 thoughts on “How to Lead Diverse People

  1. Great post Dan. As someone who works in a very diverse organization (over 50 nationalities on our campus), I would also advise the simple, but overlooked skills of asking questions and listening. Also, if one can change from a right/wrong approach to a its just different (not strange) that is very helpful.

  2. Experiencing diversity definitely happened while I was in college with regard to a variety of races, ethnicities and religions. But since then, my life settled into less diversity in this traditional sense. But as I think about it, I realize that the people in my life are diverse just in their personalities & backgrounds as well as in how they approach their daily lives and look toward the future. We may be the same for the most part regarding religion, race, ethnicity, etc., but we still vary quite a bit regarding the perspective we take on life. As I think of this even within my own family, I realize the need to embrace and appreciate this more.

    • Hello Kari,

      Great thoughts! Seeing that each person is different on some level can really help us to connect and/or lead them better. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. That’s one of my favorite quotes! I do try to get to not only know people, but watch and study their patterns and then put them in positions for them to do their best. Not all of us are good or even like doing the same things. The diverse is what makes the world go round!

    • I love the last sentence you said: “The diverse is what makes the world go around.” I totally agree! I like your point about finding and positioning the right people in the right places. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  4. This is a great reminder we need to consider cultural differences before we make assumptions about behaviors.

    I once had an employee who would never look me in the eye when communicating. I wondered what he was hiding until I learned his behavior was based upon a cultural upbringing.

    Even generational differencing may result in different behaviors and attitudes – that was actually my MA thesis topic

    Awesome post, Dan!

    • Great example Bill, knowing a person’s background might help us know why they might do someone of the things they are doing. Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the topic.

  5. Great reminder Dan. It is so important to meet others where they are at. When we take the time to get to know them and there background it makes meaningful relationships possible.

  6. Hi Dan,

    Wonderful post, my friend!

    I could really resonate with your point about becoming knowedgable. When we expand our horizons and raise our awareness of different people and cultures, it really does extend our reach in the world. We can relate more to different people, which in turn, as you say, will help us to lead diverse people.

    Thank you.

    • Thank you Hiten, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      So true, often tough, getting outside of our comfort zone can be a challenge. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  7. I think your point about learning other cultures is very important. Often we think we understand other cultures, but we may only have a superficial knowledge of it. When I got my Master’s degree, part of the study was to learn about another culture in-depth. I had to learn about Somalis since they are a big community where I was living. So I read up on them, studied their culture and history and even interviewed a Somali community leader to learn more. It was eye-opening. If you want to lead other people, you have to know what they’re all about.

    • Hi Steve,

      What a great opportunity. That’s great that you had to study a culture in-depth to get your Master’s degree. I’m sure you learned a wealth of information about that culture. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  8. You’re absolutely right Dan, in fact I’d say if you have more than 2 people in one place you have diversity. Diversity should be very healthy for an organization as long as there is unity on the core values and goals. I’ve found myself at times complaining to myself about a coworker who had a different idea or opinion from me but then I have to remind myself that this is actually the strength of our organization and it could be that my opinion is not quite as amazing as I think it is.

    • I agree, two or more people are diverse. Great points about it being in every organization. We have to be diversified to be able to influence those around us. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  9. I enjoyed the post Dan.

    I think the biggest part of leading a diverse group is simply spending time together outside of a work setting.

    While in college, I once attended a Catholic mass with a dear friend. Being Protestant, it was completely outside of my comfort zone.

    But a gained an entirely new perspective on my church and gained a deeper respect from my friend. It was a win-win situation.

    • Hello Larry,

      First off, it’s great to hear from you. That must have been a great experience, I like your mindset about it being a “win-win situation.” I think we all should be willing to do the same thing. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I like what you say about getting to know people, valuing who they are as individuals. One should never expect others to listen to them if they are not first willing to listen.

    Great post.

  11. I’ve made a sport out of trying to figure out the personality types of each individual according to the DISC profile and Myers-Briggs. There is so much diversity within our personalities, and learning the different personality types can help us determine how best to communicate within each individual relationship.

  12. I know I say the same thing repeatedly, but I’m going with empathy again. We need to truly understand others’ backgrounds and circumstances and support them as fully as possible.