Embrace Diversity: Leadership Lessons from the beach

I sit on the shores of the beautiful Arabian Sea, in a remote south end of Goa. Coconut palms, a humble shack with f & b choices and a sprawling expanse of nothingness, dotted here and there with some humans, animals and some picturesque boats and nets. A quintessential escape for the overworked and stressed urbanite.

Paradoxical that the relentless noise and energy calms us. It is a time to pause and reflect. A time to leave the city and its perils behind and look inwards.

However, given that your work persona closely trails you no matter how far behind you may want to leave it, I look for leadership lessons and learning possibilities from the sea.

I watch the waves ebb and tide, some big, some small. Some come in it with some much gusto (only to break like all others ) and some quietly flow by. Some strong and determined, some weak. One came in right out of nowhere, broke long after the others and took back with a large chunk of shore-lined assignee’s.

So much like the sea of employees within each organization. Some shake things up with their presence, some quietly come in and slink into work, some last longer, some crash before their time. They come in all shapes and sizes, flowing in tandem yet each one uniquely different.

As someone who has been in the learning and training industry for over a decade, I can’t help but think, how, if at all, could we tame such a diverse sea?

Is there a typical wave that can be used as a bench mark? Must we benchmark at all and strive for semblance? Does the greatness of the sea not come from its diversity? Is it the ease of administration that makes most leaders treat all employees the same, apply the same tools and techniques and administer the same processes to all? A one size fits all approach to managing, training and talent development?

Perhaps we must take time to notice the differences. Respect the uniqueness in each individual. In quite the same way as the very exercise of mapping a typical wave seems like an unreasonable one, striving to mould each employee into an ideal one, will be a waste of time.

Organizations will benefit from leveraging the differences and uniqueness that each employee brings to the table. Individual coaching and mentoring can help identify individual strengths and enhance performance.

Like being by the sea side, coaching and mentoring can bring about self- awareness and deep listening. For each individual, the way forward is inevitably the one that can be achieved by looking inwards. To reach for purpose and align our individual goals with that of the organization and find the inner reason for competence. The drive from within to reach our full potential and to create impact.

Much like the old adage, “ You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf” leaders must learn to surf and understand each wave to be able to ride them with ease.