The terms diversity, inclusion, and equity have skyrocketed in the marketplace lexicon. How should business leaders who follow Christ regard the issue of diversity? Christians believe all people are created in the image of God, a doctrine theologians call imago dei. God designed humanity for interdependence, and the apostles urged leaders to think of the church as a body of believers with no superiority-inferiority spectrum. Even the “American experiment” was kicked off with the declaration that “all men are created equal.”
These ideals have never been effectively lived out. Sinful human nature has programmed us for divisions based on ethnicity, culture, ideology, generation, gender, personality, or any other diverse demographic attribute. Jesus challenged religious and cultural norms in His radically inclusive campaign declaring the kingdom of God. Like the political kings in ancient days, God will hold Christian business leaders accountable for the “kingdoms” we steward. We have the responsibility to defy the prevailing constructs of racism, classism, gender, and other forms of discrimination by championing compassion, dignity, inclusion, and human flourishing.
Diversity Improves Business Performance
Applying these biblical principles to the business will require intentional strategies, but decades of research around the benefits of diversity have proven He knows best. Diversity sharpens our competitive edge, improves customer service, increases employee satisfaction and collaboration, sparks innovation, and enhances decision-making—all of which lead to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.
Companies that unlock the fullness of human potential through diversity demonstrate the following hallmarks:
– 19% higher revenue
– Optimized innovation and team performance
– 70% greater likelihood of capturing a new market
– 158% greater likelihood of understanding target end-users
Establishing Motivation to Overcome Status Quo
Before leaders can evaluate any strategic diversity campaign, we must clarify our personal leadership motives. A lack of clarity, conviction, or commitment as to why we act will undermine what we do. Organizational improvement begins with the leader’s heart—our personal feelings toward others—and only then should materialize in organizational strategies.
Leaders often regard diversity initiatives or challenges with one of four different perspectives: oblivion, fear, frustration, or commitment.
We can’t forge ahead unaware or insensitive to biases, implementing minimal changes to appease the vocal few, or allow the fear of saying the wrong thing lead to analysis paralysis. Long-term change takes time. Leaders who value diversity wholeheartedly and aspire to build authentically diverse organizations will commit the necessary time and resources.
Multicultural Means More Than Multicolored
Multicultural organizations value, seek, and invest in different perspectives, mindsets, and networks as they chart a course toward diversity and success. Diversity has to be present enough for its value to be seen, but this does not mean simply directing HR to hire to meet a quota. Hiring decisions must center on the candidates who will advance the mission and value of our companies. Believing multiculturalism will improve our organizations will drive us to intentionally hire and promote to optimize diverse teams.
The Company We Keep
Dr. Brené Brown said, “People are hard to hate close up.” Proximity is essential to loving people. We must intentionally bring ourselves closer to others to embrace a lifestyle of grace instead of bias and exclusion. Jesus surrounded Himself with a diverse group. His close followers were rich and poor, fishermen and tax collectors. He taught both the educated and the ignorant. He forgave men and women and gave priority to the aged and the young. He seemed especially drawn to those whom society had marginalized: the blind, lame, leprous, paralyzed, and broken. When He saw an establishment oppressing the vulnerable, He flipped over tables—literally—to call out the injustice.
As Albert Tate suggests in his 2020 Global Leadership Summit session, it is hard to flip a table at which we are sitting comfortably. In our flesh, we all struggle with sins of superiority and biases based on ethnicity, gender, culture, socio-economics, or even denomination. God’s grace calls us to do something countercultural: to see the marginalized—whom He has placed in our sightline—and bring them into our circle. Because of grace received, we extend it to others, regardless—and sometimes because—of how different we may be. Leaders hold unique power positions to tear down obstructions, flip tables of injustice, and build bridges of inclusion.
The BridgeLeader Network offers a schematic that outlines five areas leaders can use to identify intentionality concerning diverse workforces. You can assess your company’s multicultural effectiveness by answering the questions provided in the resources below.
Leading a Legacy
The final book of the Bible paints a picture of the end of time, when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will worship Jesus. This was the multicultural vision of the Church in the beginning, and it remains God’s vision for His people today.
Every company with a leader who follows Christ has a role to play in God’s vision. Politics and policies ebb and flow with culture. We are stewards who can flip the tables of cultural injustice or exclusion and nurture redefined environments that deliver results and change the world. Our goal is to create more equitable workplace cultures where all people thrive.
Bob Phillips, C12 Member and owner of Edgecombe Furniture, and his team celebrate the multiculturalism of their organization.