The Main Challenge for Leaders Today
Bill Cottringer

“Diversity: The art of thinking independently together.” ~Malcolm Forbes.

There are two sound reasons for diversity: (a) It is the right thing to do from a human-kind perspective, and (b) the differences brought by diversity can assure better outcomes than without them. The first purpose of diversity doesn’t need any further explanation as it is self-evident. However, the second purpose of diversity is only half of the story. The first part of the story is the process of including a wide variety of people’s characteristics, values, knowledge, skills and abilities. This is to avoid inadvertently excluding something important and valuable in the goal of creating a better country, organization, sport’s team or family and getting better results.

The normal course of evolution in human thinking is to fully embrace an idea that sounds like it is true and can pass the test of being so at all times and places. But what we usually find out, in our perpetual quest of the truth, is that these good ideas usually end up short at the end, being only half the truth and requiring more work to finish. This is why we invented the two-party system in our country. Each party puts forth its agenda until it is time for the other side’s agenda, which is needed to complete the full circle. The saying, “For all things, there is a season” comes to mind.

In early Psychology, there was a very important principle that emerged in studies of perception, called the Gestalt Principle. Probably the most important application of this principle is the reality that “the whole is much more than just the sum of its parts.” This just means that all the parts of a thing working together can do much more than any of the individual parts can do working alone on their own separately.

The most successful countries, organizations and sports teams are founded on this Gestalt Principle and owe their success to it. These groups know that all the differences and variety of abilities of individual members have much more power collectively as a “team,” than any individual team member brings to the table alone. For example, a complete car or an airplane can drive on a road and fly in the sky, whereas none of the individual parts of the car or plane can do much of anything alone. There is an underlying inter-dependency of all the necessary parts that produces the end results, which none of them alone can accomplish separately.

Back to the other half of diversity and the main challenge for leaders today. The drive to diversity needs the rest of the story. The full circle of diversity is the same as it is in all the other creative processes of the universe (which by the way is a very apropos word for what it stands for). For the best results and full truth of something, the two seemingly opposite things have to be reconciled as just two different sides to the same coin. In the case of diversity, a leader’s job is only half done, with the other half waiting in the wind for the leader’s full attention and efforts. Maybe the time is right to recognize this need in our own country. The pain of the current divide and marked polarization would suggest that.

The rest of the story about diversity is that it can’t really get the results we want from the benefits until we add its other half, which is the unification of diversity. With sports teams, this means all the team members converging on a common goal of playing together, better than the other team, by each member contributing the needed role, function and ability to get better results collectively as a unified team, rather than alone as individuals. In business this may be the diverse group of employee’s using their varied differences to decide how to best help the company achieve its common mission of being successful in making quality products or delivering quality services that result in business prosperity and satisfaction for all the stakeholders.

In our country, unifying diversity means converging on common values, customs and means, which can bring about more success and greatness as a unified country than the diversity alone can accomplish. We see this potential during horrific tragedies like 9-1-1, wartime, and widespread natural disasters. In other words, things get better when we work together as a whole country, instead of being a divided one. The question of our times is how to heal or otherwise reconcile the divide that pits one group against the other? The only solution is for each side to realize they can only see half the truth with one set of eyes and that they only have half the truth which needs to be added to the other side’s truth to make the whole truth.

There is a huge obstacle in this reunification process that has to do with the “ego success phenomenon.” Simply stated, the more success and less failure you have with your half-truth of choice, the longer it persists, being virtually impervious to the needed compromise. Unfortunately, nothing changes until enough people get a glimpse of the whole truth possibilities of shifting paradigms from a win-lose competitive mentality to a win-win compromise one, which is actually strength rather than a weakness. This takes time, but the time is now.

William Glasser invented a therapy model long ago, called “Reality Therapy,” which may be useful regarding the main challenge of leaders today. This model requires a person to see and deal with reality as it is and not as he would like it to be, or wrongly thinks it to be. Seeing the need for unifying diversity as the challenge of our day is the reality, whether we see it or not. Seeing it, is a smart start.

“Rise above sectional interests and private ambitions... Pass from matter to spirit. Matter is diversity; spirit is light, life and unity.” ~Muhammad Iqbal.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or