8 Leadership Tips To Deal With Diversity
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8 Leadership Tips To Deal With Diversity

8 Leadership Tips To Deal With Diversity

Successful markets leaders will throw away the textbook and take a leap of faith, writes leadership expert Tommy Weir.

Gulf Business

The GCC is the gathering point for the emerging market workforce. As a result, the region’s overwhelming nationality mix has created one of modern leadership’s greatest challenges. How do you drive performance and generate surplus value from diversity on steroids?

Since nearly every workforce is oversupplied with employees (and managers) from the emerging and frontier markets, here’s a list of eight
leadership actions that will help you succeed in the face of leading an emerging market workforce.


Because the levels of ambiguity and complexity are inordinately high, leaders need to progress past the historical strategic thinking and apply imaginative thinking. This focuses on making sense of problems, issues and opportunities and provides different ways of looking at an issue to create imaginative solutions.


The days of monoculture communication are far removed from reality in the GCC. Living in the midst of the numerous languages with business mainly being carried out in a non-native language – English – you need to bring understanding when you communicate to multiple language backgrounds using just one language.

The traditional leadership practice of influential communication is to persuasively communicate clearly and concisely with others to win support and ‘buy in’ for ideas. The purpose of communication does not change, but the ‘how’ has to become far more adaptable given the diversity of the employees.


To aid with being multi-lingual in one language and several other of the leadership actions, you need to practice workplace intelligence. This is often mistaken for empathy, emotional intelligence or even cultural intelligence.

Workplace intelligence is focused on understanding from another’s viewpoint and building a connection of trust. This action comes from mentalisation, which is a form of imaginative mental activity to understand others and what underlies their overt behaviour. By practicing workplace intelligence, you are able to perceive and interpret the employees’ needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes and reasons.

This “sneak peek” insight is invaluable to leadership impact.


Nearly every leadership model talks of the importance of teamwork. Here the idea has complications invoked from cronyism on one side and working outside of the normal groups (family and friends) on the other side. Therefore you need to build a tribe at work by valuing different contributions and encouraging participation within teams and across organisational boundaries.


In addition to high levels of diversity in the workplace, the other defining characteristic is being from a first generation corporate society. With this reality, leaders need to think beyond the traditional training department programme and focus on building the achievement of their teams.


It is very important for leaders to act with integrity. But their responsibility does not rest there. It is your role to promote integrity and trust amongst those being led. The best way to accomplish this is to teach what is acceptable and to be unaccepting of improper behaviour.


Without direction there is chaos, so leaders need to excel at steering the ship. Like a skipper, you need to ensure that their direction is clear and remove any obstacles to success and performance.


The final leadership action is to continually champion improvement. You need to regularly ask the simple question, “how can this be better”? By doing so you will create a culture and behaviour that delivers “making it better”.


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