Information, knowledge, wisdom – while they all have a slightly different meaning, the overarching theme is it’s good to learn and good to understand different options when you make choices – especially in leadership. Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you are likely to perceive every problem as a nail.” What he meant by that oft-used phrase is that an individual is limited by their talents and experience in their ability to offer ideas to solve problems.
There is a great book titled Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham. The theme of this book is that each of us is born with natural talent, or strengths. Now this doesn’t say what job or career you can or cannot undertake, but it does identify how you will be naturally good at what you do if you use your strengths.
The book discusses the thirty-four possible strengths that people have. When you take the online assessment offered in the book your top five strengths are identified in order from one to five. Here is where the idea of diversity really stands out. The number of possible combinations of top five strengths in order from one to five out of a possible thirty-four strengths is amazingly high. There are over thirty three million combinations – 33,390,720 to be exact.
Imagine, the people who work with you have a very high probability of having a completely different set of strengths – or talents. It would be a waste to just pick the hammer you know when you have so many other available talents to draw on. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
Now you know that your team has a broad set of talents to bring to the forefront in decision making. Added to their talent is their experience. While talent is the foundation of what someone is naturally good at, experience gives people a front row seat at what has worked, and likely more important, what hasn’t worked before. In other words, when you have experience you have made mistakes and seen other people make mistakes.
As a leader you want every person on your team to share their experience when evaluating options. Not that you would reject every possible solution just because it didn’t work before, but knowing this information might give you an edge if you decide to try it again.
“Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” Franklin P. Jones
Diverse talents combined with diverse experiences will lead to diverse ideas – that is what every leader needs. Remember, your job as a leader is not to have all the good ideas, but to find all the good ideas. As former Yale University President Alfred Whitney Griswold once said, “The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.”
Finally, I really like the way Michael Abrashoff, the former commander of the USS Benfold describes diversity by asking this question, “In what way can someone be a superstar?”