Saturday 21st May was Federal Election Day in Australia, which also happened to be World Diversity Day. The results of the elections this year marked a turning point for Australia – a stunning array of independent women candidates swept into Federal parliament and for the first time, there was substantial colour – with the Australian parliament set to be the most diverse yet in its ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
This progress demonstrates an appetite from Australians to reflect who they are as a multicultural nation and shift to a new style of leadership that aligns with the challenges and ambitions of the future.
The new normal we find ourselves in and simultaneously the societal, climate and economic crises we now face has reinforced the changing demands of leaders today. Whether this is in business, politics or in the community, people are wanting leaders to act differently.
What this also means, is that it requires new and different pathways and mindsets – more than ever – you cannot win without the skills, talents and lived experiences that people from diverse backgrounds bring to the table. Women’s leadership in particular, which has been sidelined and overlooked for too long, must now form an essential part of future solutions.
To create, to innovate, to do GOOD, means leaders need to take a deeper look at themselves and their organisations and demand accountability around their diversity, equity and inclusion commitments. This means to shift and amplify the culture for those already in leadership positions, to open doors for others and provide space where key decisions are made. To create environments of access and equity where people of all intersectional identities feel safe and valued. And to lead with authenticity and role-model inclusion.
While this welcome discourse has many lessons for leaders from across industries and organisations to celebrate and learn from the election results for the future (and still noting the absence of representation from those living with disability for example), it cannot stay there in the higher realms of government.
Those in leadership and decision-making positions across corporate Australia can no longer say they can’t find diverse leadership talent – they have always been there. And they are ready.
To change the systems, and break the barriers – what leaders can hold as the key takeaway is the reminder of the importance identifying and embracing the multi-dimensional qualities that diverse talent bring to decision making, leadership and positions of influence, and the critical need for organisations to look like the communities they serve – diversity in its broadest sense at every level of leadership.
It seems clear that Australians want more inclusive and progressive leaders, and these election results will hopefully bring on a new era of leadership that harnesses the value of diverse voices, deep listening and collaborative relationships.
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