As our workplaces change and become more culturally diverse, it is critical that leadership changes as well. Diversity leadership means leading in a way that respects the different cultures that are represented in the workplace. The process of becoming a diversity leader starts with getting to know the people who work for you and what their values are. Here are some factors you should consider when working to become a diversity leader.

Individual or Collective Orientation

Some cultures have a high individualism orientation. In these cultures, it’s more common for people to have many friends, but very few close relationships. Individual achievements and self-expression are emphasized. 

In contrast, some cultures have a collective orientation. Cultures with collective orientations tend to value close relationships and groups over individual identities. In these cultures, people generally feel more responsible for one another than people in individual-focused societies do. Collective orientations do not put a strong emphasis on individual achievement, but instead, value the accomplishments of the group above all. 

Competition or Cooperation Orientation

Some cultures strongly emphasize competition, while others put more emphasis on cooperation. While some of your employees may be motivated by competition and the drive to be “number one,” others who value cooperation may feel uncomfortable with competition in the workplace. Cultures with a strong cooperation orientation can feel as if competition turns coworkers against one another. Instead, they would be more motivated by a challenge that required a collective effort. 

Formal or Informal Orientation

In the workplace, some employees prefer to be very formal, while others are more comfortable in an informal environment. In the United States, for example, many people dress casually at work and call one another by their first names. In many other cultures, however, it is not considered appropriate to use first names at work. It is also a common practice to shake hands in some cultures, while in other cultures, handshaking might be considered taboo. 

How to Handle Different Orientations

How can you, as a leader, resolve these different cultural orientations and create a workplace where everyone feels accepted and motivated to do well? First, understand the values of the people in your particular organization. After that, create a game plan to slowly shift the workplace to accommodate the values of your employees.