What does diversity mean to you?

Date: November 26, 2019

Publication Type: Articles

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What does diversity mean to you? Is it a person’s age? Gender? Cultural background?

For me, diversity encompasses all these things. But more importantly, it also applies to the way people think, as well as their ability to adapt to constant change. From an early age, I learned firsthand the strength of adaptability. When my family fled the civil war in Lebanon and immigrated to Canada, we were faced with adapting to a new environment. But rather than being intimidated by a new lifestyle, we embraced the challenge and reinvented ourselves.

We live in a time when we need to be prepared, because the current rate of change in global societies is unprecedented. Think of all the disruptive technologies that have surfaced in the past 40 years: home video, the internet, broadband, wireless and 5G, to name a few.

For businesses, these constant disruptions bring a greater need for constant improvement and adaptability. In fact, your success directly depends on it. Today, the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has decreased to 15 years, from 90 years in 1935. Bottom line: you either embrace change and adapt, or get left behind.

Corporate culture requires continuous evolution and adaptability, which is why diversity is so crucial. A diverse work force brings with it different experiences, different ideas and opinions, and different approaches. In order to survive and thrive in this new, disruptive environment, you need to be challenged continuously and adapt yourself to new ways of thinking. Surround yourself with people who will push you to grow, evolve and give you new perspectives.

I look for more than just a person’s education. Degrees are important, but they are only one part of a longer equation. Attitude, willingness, hunger, drive, determination and the ability to adapt to rapid change – these are the qualities that truly give people a competitive edge. I’m less interested in where they’ve come from and more concerned about where they want to go and how they plan to get there. They need to be passionate about life and unique in their approach. Diversity can be found anywhere and everywhere, but you need to be open to it.

As a leader, you have the ability to impact your environment and prepare your workforce for the disruptive changes in your industry. Nobody is saying it won’t be a challenge; there may be some within your organization who are resistant to change. But the fourth industrial revolution has brought different kinds of pressure on leadership. You simply don’t have the luxury of taking a passive stance.

Leadership is an action, not a position. When you surround yourself with diverse and adaptable people who challenge even you, your team will be able to overcome any adversity, emerging stronger and more resilient.

A diverse work force brings with it different experiences, different ideas and opinions, and different approaches… Surround yourself with people who will push you to grow, evolve and give you new perspectives.

Engaging Canadians | 2018/2019 Annual Report

 

FROM AN OP-ED IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL, OCTOBER 25, 2018

Author

Rola Dagher, President, Cisco Systems Canada, Co.

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