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Leading with Character: Diversity of a Different Kind

Last week I wrote a blog, Character of a Different Kind, which was inspired by an ancient mother tree I met while wandering along a country road during my vacation in Maine. It was so popular that I’m going to repeat the theme this week with a blog called Diversity of a Different Kind.

During that wondrous Maine getaway, I communed with Mother Nature and she taught me to be a better leader. Here’s how. I love rocks and stones. The lake region where we vacation had its economic heyday when the local quarries were producing at their peak. Today, some of those mountains have trails leading to the top where rockhounds can sort through the leftovers in search of treasure such as a rough garnet or tourmaline. Inevitably, I come down the mountain lugging a hunk of stone as big as I can carry.

Creating a Beautiful Garden
I can’t help myself. The rocks from the top of the mountain are so beautiful. The quartz crystals formed over eons of pressure in the Earth are translucent and emerge in different colors. They’re intricately cut to make beautiful jewelry. The hunks of granite are rugged and dense. They’re shaped and polished for gravestones and countertops. Sheets of mica are shiny and delicate, and it is applied as insulation. If you’re really lucky, you might find part of a geode – a hollow rock that’s ugly on the outside, but with stunningly beautiful crystals on the inside. I pack my treasures down the mountain and bring them home to Cape Cod where they take their place in my spectacular rock garden.

They join stones I’ve collected from the shores of Lake Superior – smooth and bright with colors deep and mysterious as the coffin-cold depths of Gichi Gami, as the Ojibwe call her. And they join stones from the beaches of Cape Cod, churned up from the continental shelf and tumbled relentlessly by the pounding sea until they’re perfectly round or oval.

Better Together
All these different rocks, from the tops of mountains to the shores of lakes and sea, sit side-by-side in my garden. Jagged next to smooth, richly colored adjacent to dull, attractive on the outside, or sparkling on the inside. The sum of their beauty is greater than that of each individual. Despite having different origins, different shapes and colors, and different uses …they’re all rocks.

It’s much the same with people. They come from all over—from the mountains to the sea, and they’re shaped by their experiences. They possess unique skills and abilities, they have different interests and goals, and they come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. Some are plain on the outside, but contain sharp minds or beautiful hearts. They also have different personalities and different ways of thinking. But they’re all people. People who when united together in a community, working side-by-side, produce outcomes that are better than what any one individual could produce alone.

We’re better united together than we are divided apart. Leaders of character know that and create workplace cultures that unite and strengthen people around a shared purpose or mission, and shared core values. They encourage respectful conversations where people seek to understand, not to undermine, another person’s idea or perspective. They eschew policies that divide and weaken and don’t tolerate people who judge others by what they look like, where they’re from, how they think, or who they are. Leaders of character create teams that respect each other’s differences and help everyone achieve their full potential, as individuals and as a team.

Look in the mirror. When you look at people, do you judge them for what they look like as individuals, or do you evaluate them on what they contribute to the team?

Please join me again next week for more on Leading with Character.