Diversity at the top can benefit the bottom line, survey shows

Companies are rejecting the stereotype of the leader as white, male and middle class and embracing diversity, to the benefit of the business, research has found. A study into leadership and management challenges in the changing economy commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Education and Employment found that companies […]

Companies are rejecting the stereotype of the leader as white, male and middle class and embracing diversity, to the benefit of the business, research has found.

A study into leadership and management challenges in the changing economy commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Education and Employment found that companies that appoint women and people from ethnic minorities to leadership positions are gaining a competitive advantage.

Now the findings will be used to spread the message that diversity in leadership is essential to the success of the UK economy.

They will be used by the Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership – created last February – to draw up a management development strategy for the UK.

Changes in working practices and expectations of employees mean management styles need to evolve, said Julian Richer, chairman of Richer Sounds, who headed the steering group.

`Directive, hierarchical and control-based approaches seem increasingly irrelevant in an environment in which diversity, consensus, openness and creativity are central to success,’ he said.

Mark Hastings, head of policy at the Institute of Management and a member of the steering committee said the study proved that diversity in top positions benefits the bottom line.

`Organisations that reflect society and the market they are speaking to are good at selling products and services to that market,’ he explained.

`Organisations dominated by middle-class, white, male leaders are successful at selling products to white middle-class men, but not women or people from ethnic minorities.’

The report, entitled Leadership and Management in the Changing Economy found the new generation of managers give a high priority to respect for the individual and have a style based on communication and rejection of bullying and discrimination.

It concluded that there is widespread support for `an initiative to open up opportunities to people of talent, regardless of gender, race or beliefs’.

Dominique Hammond writes for Personnel Today

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