Debate the following statement, providing arguments for and against
Research has consistently shown that diverse teams produce better results, provided they are well led. The ability to bring together people from different backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, and generations and leverage all they have to offer, therefore, is a must-have for leaders (Ibarra and Hansen, 2011: 71).
Leadership has been defined as “the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives.” (Yukl, 2010)
Ibarra and Hansen (2011) seem to be confident in stating that diverse teams of people, assuming they are well-led in terms of management, perform better than more homogeneous types of people. Furthermore, it has been hinted that part of the reason NOKIA had not managed to sense the smart-phone threat coming out of silicon valley was exactly this; a lack of differentiation amongst the people in senior management (Ibarra & Hansen, 2011).
Iberra and Hansen (2011) argue that social media networks now give managers a greater than ever chance to connect the firm from the board to the lowest level employees. Harnessing opinions and suggestions from all levels of the firm could provide vital information to the management to make their operations more efficient. It has also been stated that a wider array of perspectives leads to an increase in creativity and that the appropriate utilisation of a workforces’ diversity will increase available talent for filling crucial job vacancies (Yukl, 2010). In order to benefit from a diversified team however efficient and talented management is essential in order to provide motivation and supervision.
On the other side of this argument Mannix and Neale (2005) imply that diversity could create social division and friction within a team which in turn could reduce its performance. Leaders must have traits which not only motivate the team to work efficiently but must also be willing to change themselves. ‘Control Freaks’ as identified by Archer and Cameron (2010) must be ready to relinquish some of their authority or risk putting stress on the workings of the whole group. Personal traits and differences must be effectively managed by the leader in order to reduce the amount of negative friction and in order to ensure that it does not begin to affect performance. Archer and Cameron (2010) further argue that if frictions between team members causes stress this in turn could lead to job dissatisfaction and could reduce team productivity. Critics also argue that collaborative leadership may also slow down the decision making process leading to further inefficiency. Ibarra and Hansen (2011) themselves acknowledged that if people tried to collaborate on everything they would end up in endless meetings and debates in order to gain consensus.
In conclusion, it is easy to see why Ibarra and Hansen (2011) are eager to signify the importance of having a team diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, background and education as they all have something to offer. Diverse teams can offer important different views and opinions which can help management gain new insight in how a firm should operate and how consumers may perceive things differently. Having a homogeneous team may thrive on the cultivation of homogeneous ideas and opinions and this can be costly to a firm, as in the case of Nokia. Arguments and friction caused by differences in the employees could be harnessed by skilful management and be made the base for constructive conversations. However, collaborative leadership could face some difficulties and is hard for even skilled and experienced management to execute correctly. Harnessing the knowledge and useful opinions from people of different backgrounds, age, ethnicity and education levels is key for a firm wishing to increase efficiency, but a hard task for management to attain. Furthermore, each firm is structured in a very different way and what may be correct for one organisation may not be so for the other. Firms should take all this information into account and evaluate their own organisation in order to find a style of leadership tailor made to their own strategic needs.
Archer, D. and Cameron, A. (2010) Collaborative leadership — lessons from failure. Developing HR Strategy. [online] Available at: < http://www.socia.co.uk/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/learning%20from%20collaborative%20failure.pdf> [Accessed 10 March, 2013]
Ibarra, H., & Hansen, M. T. (2011). Are you a collaborative leader?. Harvard Business Review, 89(7/8), 68-74.
Mannix, E., & Neale, M. A. (2005). What differences make a difference? The promise and reality of diverse teams in organizations. Psychological science in the public interest, 6(2), 31-55.
Yukl,G.,(2010) Leadership in Organisations, 7th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education