Imagine a world where positive feedback was considered entertainment at best and meaningless at worst. In this world, your job as a leader is to privilege particular ways of being (hopefully consistent with your own ways) and do the best you can to create regulations and enforce norms that promote these, and only these, approaches. If the best approach has already been found, you make people conform to this. If it is still being sought, you seek to ensure that no one is satisfied with what they are currently doing. You seek out any and all methods that allow you to compare people to an ideal standard and show them where they fall short. In this world, even perfection might not be good enough.
Do this world sound out of balance? Do you get the impression that a lot of energy is being wasted waiting for some idyllic future where all problems will be solved (or some exceedingly gloomy one where it will all cease to matter)? Do you think people are doing their best work or is more time spent trying to cover up what’s going wrong?
Now imagine a world in which there is no scarcity of good ways to be and as a leader it is your privilege to acknowledge where people are flourishing. You look to the past to find out what is already working so that you can build on this success. At the same time, you are open to new possibilities and committed to remaining flexible should the demands of your situation change. Your job is to reward effort and integrity and to make sure that unrealized potential has a chance to surface and grow. Instead of comparison, you practice compassion because the hardest ideal to live up to is simply to show up and be authentically yourself. In this world, good is truly enough.
How often do you find yourself operating as though you lived in the first of these worlds, the one where scarcity and perfectionism are driving forces? How does this mode feel? Don’t stop at your thoughts, attend to your physical and emotional reactions as well. If you can recognize the signs — for example, a sense of unease, heaviness or tension in your body; shame, guilt and fear; unhelpful ruminations about unlikely catastrophic outcomes — you can take an intentional step into the second world, the one where abundance and diversity are the driving forces. All of the energy you’ve been devoting to force the world to look the one single way you see as perfect can instead be devoted to opening yourself up to curiosity about all the other options that might be possible if you only took a moment to accept and appreciate the beautiful, imperfect state that is reality. This freedom to choose your world is the diversity dividend.
The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.