Who are the Decision-Makers? What Politics Teaches Us About Diversity
Who makes the decisions in politics? The answer to this question can mean a world of difference for everyone involved. Highly concentrated decision-making power spells danger and often invites corruption. We can learn a lot from political systems about why we need broad-based decision-making power, perspectives that are different from ours, and what it takes to build diversity at work that is sustainable and enduring.
The study of comparative politics has given us much insight into the types of political systems that foster fundamental safety, wellbeing, and civic and political freedom. Broadly, stark differences have emerged between two very contrasting political systems: democratic and authoritarian.
Authoritarianism and Diversity?
Historically, authoritarian regimes have ushered in greater levels of instability and corruption. Why is this the case? These systems rely heavily upon one person (personalist regimes) or a small group of people (single-party regimes) to lead and make decisions. The result is fragility that is difficult to maintain in the absence of that one or a few key players. Without checks and balances, greed and corruption abound.
Increasing polarization in politics can lead to a nearsightedness that rejects any viewpoint or fact that does not align with our own. This prevents us from hearing information or ideas that might invite healthy and needed discourse. “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so” (Snyder 2017). One way to remain conscious of our blind spots is to surround ourselves with people that think differently than us.
This dynamic is seen in many organizations today. Namely, organizations that lack diversity or have inherited similar dynamics of power. In the past, companies may have survived by hanging on to “the old way of doing things” or trusting a few key leaders to guide decision-making. The problem with this is that good leadership requires broad perspectives and a wide base of advisors to succeed and make decisions that not only worked in the past but will allow them to overcome future challenges.
When diverse perspectives are not heard, listened to, or taken into account, it results in a harmful lack of representation for the candidate pool and the company at large. A strong brand is one with diverse leadership that listens to and values the varied perspectives of their team and customers at every level of their company.
Diversity that Lasts
As we see in nature, diversity begets diversity. The mark of a culture of true diversity and inclusion is sustainability. By adapting and innovating with the help of diverse thinking and ideas, diversity’s role becomes indispensable, and the culture of inclusivity and belonging central to a company’s identity.
In politics, uniformity of thought is pernicious. Diverse backgrounds, diverse thinking, and a good measure of checks and balances work to provide accountability, stability, and representation. Diversity lends the stability needed to extend beyond the present moment and adapt for the future. Are you building a culture of diversity that will last?