Seeking diversity is a success imperative

This is an article about the relationship between diversity, intelligence, and the development of humanity.

Here is a list of reasons why people avoid uncomfortable conversations in life and work. It stems from a fear of:

  • saying the wrong thing

  • being mis-judged

  • being misunderstood

  • being exposed

  • upsetting somebody

  • change

  • losing power

  • losing face

  • falling out with someone

  • being ignorant or stupid (or worse - being seen to be that)

Speaking about the elephant in the room can be risky and threatening.

But if we don’t speak about important things, we risk getting stuck or doing damage.

We begin to compromise the development of ourselves, our organisations, communities, and humanity. We compromise our agency, experience and aliveness.

Here’s some reasons why we might want to engage with difficult things. Also, some thoughts about how we do it. They have nothing to do with being PC. They have everything to do with a better way of being and acting.

Diversity and intelligence are correlated

One factor referenced as contributing to Alzheimer’s and Dementia, is the narrowing of interactions a person has as they get older. A safeguard is making sure we have lots of people contact.

Our world view diminishes when we don’t check in with others. Leon Festinger in his work on Social Comparison Theory, made the point that we form and evolve our beliefs and values in this way. We speak to others to get more information, context, understanding and insight.

We get a fuller, more useful and intelligent world view, by seeking and inviting diversity. Seeking and inviting diversity is a success imperative.

The ability to listen

Often our listening is waiting for our turn to speak, but when we listen to understand, it’s a game changer

When we learn to listen for understanding, everything shifts

The person speaking feels listened to and is validated by the experience. They will probably invite the same back. We don’t always have to agree.

In the act of listening to understand, we may very well expand the information that is available to us, in a way that leads to a more useful way forward.

A lot gets in the way of listening

Truly listening to understand requires a lot of self-management. It means being aware of where you are listening from. Here’s a starting check list:

  • Ego

  • Assumptions

  • Perceptions

  • Bias’s

  • Judgements

  • Power

  • Position

  • Internal chatter

Self-management is only possible with self-awareness. Doing the work of self-discovery is perhaps the most important development work we can do. It usually benefits from a variety of external input. It’s not most people’s favourite thing to do.

Truly listening to others usually means letting go of perceived positions of safety and control.


In my work as an Executive Coach and Leadership Developer, psychological safety sits central to everything I do. That’s not to be confused with cosiness over challenge. It’s to do with gaining permission to talk about difficult things. In my opinion trust and relationship currency are a cornerstone of high performance.

From a neurological standpoint, when we feel safe our brain chemistry sets up the right cocktail for higher level thinking. Like the ability to change our mind based on more information, delayed gratification, innovation, future visioning.

When we feel threatened, we retreat to an earlier part of our brain. This limbic [mammalian] brain, gives us dualistic choices like good/bad; safe/dangerous, friend/foe.

A better future requires higher level thinking.

We have to make it easier for each other

I hope the current challenges before our world are a sign that we are transitioning to a higher altitude in collective consciousness. In the way that divergent views are a catalyst for creativity. In the sense that polarized and extremist behaviour breaks ground for more unified approaches.

We need leaders who are moving towards positions of Safer Uncertainty in themselves, and can create environments where others can occupy this domain with them. Some of that looks like:

  • Enabling learning and growth in self and others

  • Curious and interested exploration

  • Open to possibility and emergence

  • Embracing diversity as intelligence

  • Embracing diversity as humanity

  • Looking after our collective home

  • Listening to understand

  • Death to the ego

  • Holding the psychological safety of others productively

  • Engaging with challenges as opportunities to learn and grow

Let’s do something with it: Listening from

This week’s blog has one activity. It could serve you for a lifetime:

As you go about all the various interactions of your day, get curious about where you are listening from. Hold it lightly, experiment, notice what shifts.


If you’d like some help with deepening your self-awareness, drop me a line.


Back to Blog

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Photo by Rima Kruciene on Unsplash

Join Us: Subscribe to 'Weekly-ish Leadership Stuff’.
Our email newsletter goes out weekly (ish) with Leadership Insights, Coaching Questions, Videos, Articles and Free Stuff :-)


* indicates required