I picked up Diversity: Leaders not Labels from the library as research material for my group project. Then I realized it was written by Stedman Graham, who is a big deal management consultant in Chicago and also known as Oprah’s Significant Other. I read the introduction just to see if he was any good, and he is. I kept reading and finished it in a day.
The book is part “yay diversity”, part “if your company is not diverse, your bottom line will suffer” and part, “here are the things that you should know about some minority groups in the U.S.”
That last part rocked. Besides describing the history of each group in the U.S., Graham offers short descriptions of heroic members of each group. One rather interesting (and heartbreaking) note is that when young Native Americans were interviewed, they hard a hard time naming any modern Native American Heroes. Most could only come up with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
Yes. Graham singled out Oprah in his list of heroes.
I learned that things, too. Apparently, the phrases “differently abled” and “physically challenged” are sometimes considered condescending. I always thought that. Here was a shocker:
I didn’t know that the word “peon” was considered a racial insult to the Hispanic community. My brain (and Encarta, the that dictionary Microsoft uses) equated it primarily with the word “drudge”, meaning someone who performs menial work. So, not a nice thing to say, but hardly racist. Then a secondary definition listed “laborer”, particularly Hispanic farm worker. A third definition was “low paid worker” and mentioned Asians. Now I know.
Graham also stressed the personal responsibility of each member of a minority group to manage their own destiny. As a woman in the workforce, I heartily agree that I should not be waiting around for an employer to build opportunities for me.
I think the big take away from this book is that true leaders do not take the shortcut of judging people by the labels society pegs on them. Leaders take the time to judge people on their merit. I’m not saying that I am personally any great leader. But I buy the message.