Choosing to Change: Leading Diverse Perspectives

Change is inevitable. It is one of the absolute truths of life, and it comes whether we want it to or not. However, change does not have to be a negative thing. As we develop ourselves as leaders and young professionals, change is something we should come to expect and embrace. Often the biggest changes we come across are the changes in perspective, attitude, and opinion of those we work with and those we lead.

Every individual you work with will have his or her own unique perspective. Coming to understand and appreciate everyone’s perspective while maintaining and holding strong to your own is not something that comes without effort. As a college student, I am in the middle of a major period of change and self-discovery in my life. I learn new things everyday, and am constantly pushing myself to grow as a student, friend, individual, and young professional. As an Organizational Communication and Leadership student, developing my leadership skills is, of course, at the top of my list in expanding my career competencies. Learning how to truly understand the diversity of mindsets and attitudes out there has been one of my most difficult talents to learn, but has proven to be one of the most important.

In my own experience I’ve found that learning to lead diverse perspectives can be developed in three ways.

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Knowledge

  3. Choice

Self-Awareness: Values, Assumptions, Beliefs, and Expectations

I’ve learned, in my time at Butler University, that the basis of a true understanding of diversity of perspectives is self-awareness. In other words, we must really recognize what we bring to the table – this is absolutely critical in developing leadership skills. What are your personal values? Assumptions? Beliefs? What expectations do YOU have for others? Assuming that every person thinks just like you or has the same values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations is where some leaders misstep. If you can’t answer these questions, how can you expect another person to trust your judgment and look to you for stability and guidance through periods of change?

Learning to be truly self-aware is something that I have found critical to being a successful college student, but I believe it is also critical to being successful in life. Self-awareness is not something that comes naturally to every person. Personally, I have had to learn and develop a sense of self-awareness. In order to re-evaluate myself internally, I have turned externally. Conversations with others can be a valuable tool in assessing where I can improve as a leader. By identifying role models that exemplify the leadership style I hope to portray, it becomes easy to see where I can personally improve.

On the flip side, we can also turn to others to identify what not to do as a leader. I encourage you to identify what values others hold and what assumptions, beliefs, and expectations they have of you.

Knowledge: What can we learn?

I learn everyday in the classroom, but some of the most important lessons I have learned have come from those around me. We all think differently. That is proven. Accepting that fact is the first step towards learning about those that you are leading, and embracing it is the next. I am completely fascinated by the various ways my peers and superiors communicate, think, and act. Once I truly started paying attention to the different styles around me, I was able to learn more than ever before.

Although I am currently a student, I personally believe that learning should be continuous and extend beyond the classroom. Identify what you want to learn more about and actively seek it out. Do you want to learn more about different communication styles? Take a personal assessment, discover your own style, learn about how various styles interact positively and negatively. If you can identify what you want to learn and how you want to change, take steps in that direction and choose to change. We are never done reaching our full potential-we can always learn more- but we have to make the choice. If you choose to stop developing yourself as a leader and continuously learning, that is also a choice.

Choice: What WE decide. 

At the end of the day, the choices we make are remembered more than our original intentions. With the changes and choices we face daily, we can never stop pushing to learn more and own what we bring to the table. Every individual has their own unique skill set to contribute. However, we might not even realize all that we are truly able to contribute as leaders and team members unless we decide to uncover those traits. I’ve learned that the more we are able to use our strengths and understand other’s perspectives, instead of changing our own, the more successful we can be at leading many diverse perspectives. Change will continue to happen, so we need to choose to hold ourselves accountable to being self-aware, learning, and deciding in order to successfully develop as leaders of diverse perspectives.

Source: de Caluwé, L., & Vermaak, H. (2003).  Learning to change:  A guide for organization change agents. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications, Inc.

Contributed by: Paige Haefer, IWL Marketing and Communications Intern

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