Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Building on Diversity

Congratulations Mr. Community Organizer!

You beat them with the strategy they mocked.

Recently, I read an excellent book about Abe Lincoln -- Team of Rivals. In order to deal with a divided nation, Lincoln chose his cabinet from the best minds available. He ended up with a cabinet composed of mostly his rivals to the presidency. He chose these men for their abilities and experience. Lincoln knew the problems he faced were too much for one person. He knew he needed a team of experts -- all more capable than him in their specialities.

Lincoln was a master weaver in not only creating his team, but also managing them. A diverse team is difficult to manage, but usually produces better results than a team of like-thinkers. The key to Lincoln's diverse team was different thinking and different expertise and different styles. Yet, by appearance they were very similar -- all old white men. Same packaging, but different attributes.

Today's corporate world is full of apparently diverse individuals -- men, women, whites, blacks, asians, latinos, christians, jews, muslims, gay and straight. Yet, most corporations reward similar thinking -- which does not bring the rewards that diversity promises. We have organizations full of people that look different, but think the same. Everyone should read Team of Rivals to see how to mix, match and manage different skills, styles and abilities for maximum effectiveness.

We focus on Barack Obama's ethnicity -- but that is not why he won. It is his message, his vision, his leadership. 150 years ago, a tall skinny guy from Illinois focused on connecting a severely divided nation. Now, another tall skinny guy from Illinois faces a differently divided nation and needs the best team possible to move this country forward. I was glad to hear that Team of Rivals is one of Obama's favorite books. He will need to apply it's lessons learned to have an effective presidency in these tough times.