By Chuck Shelton, Author, Leadership 101 For White Men & Managing Director, Greatheart Leader Labs
White male leadership development is emerging as an area for significant innovation through global diversity and inclusion (D&I). The basic facts:
- 32 million white men hold leadership jobs worldwide
- the percentage of white men increases with leadership level
- many white guys feel excluded by diversity and inclusion, and they tend not to include themselves.
So it is useful to consider the reasons and risks behind white male engagement.
1. Position Power
Trends in population, education, and recruitment now produce diverse and rising talent. Yet white male executives are still the norm, and for many years they will continue to lead at senior levels beyond their proportion in the population. The obvious strategy: equip white men who lead to succeed through global diversity and inclusion. The risk in not doing so: self-marginalization, from weak bridging to leaders with position power.
2. Inclusion with Integrity
When “inclusion” was added to “diversity” as the common label for our efforts, a powerful promise was turned loose – the idea that everyone is in. While white male privilege still exists, the future of white men will not be as well arranged as their past. Integrity requires the commitment to seek 100% involvement from the white guys. The risk in not doing so: the distrust of white men, when inclusion excludes them.
3. Growing Allies
Many white male allies travel a common D&I journey, passing from resistance to intrigue to self-interest to support to sponsorship to mutuality. These champions partner with diverse colleagues to move D&I forward, and the white guys who wonder what’s in diversity for them closely watch the white men who have figured that out. The risk in under-investing in such allies: white male resistance continues to limit D&I traction and results.
4. Funded Credibility
Every business unit must wield a defensible value proposition to hold its own during budget decisions. Simply put, D&I budgets can thrive when:
- Inclusion effectively includes white guys, who are many of the decision makers
- D&I leaders hone the return on investing in diversity with business unit leaders
- Diversity is measurably aligned with business strategy
The credible ROI secures funding. The risk of a questionable ROI: a languishing budget.
5. Competitive Advantage
In 2022 we will assure emerging leaders that, yes, in 2012 it was not commonly understood that white guys are not only included in diversity and inclusion, but they will contribute uniquely to its value. My firm now has two corporate clients who must not be named (but not in the same way as Voldemort), because these companies intend to invest in white male leadership development to win the battle for global talent and market share. The risk in not including white men: squandering the opportunity for a key competitive advantage in human capital and organizational success.
What about the white guys? There’s good news as we include them: new power, integrity, allies, funding, and a competitive advantage to boot. Such inclusion is a very powerful commitment.