Letter to President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States

Mr. President:

Born into a blended family of Mexican American and Irish American heritages, I value your administration’s ongoing focus on diversity and the benefits culture brings to our country. As your second term begins, I hope you continue embracing one specific message to our nation: What drove us to where we are today won’t be what takes us to the next level tomorrow. Making progress and positive changes requires us to look to and source from new places and people.
From my personal and professional leadership experience with both small and large teams, I learned that growth opportunities emerged when engaging with and listening to the people surrounding me, while also giving equal favor and share of voice to the ideas coming from diverse groups of talent, experience, background, and expertise.

When defining “diversity,” many focus on what the word means in terms of demographics, overlooking a major focus area: the diversity of thought. This aspect of diversity enriches us in the office and in our communities, bringing with it fresh ideas and new opportunities. For example, many of my colleagues mentor and coach junior-level team members, sharing personal insight to navigate career challenges and drive their careers. But is this effective in helping them stay competitive? Will this drive value for the firm and our clients of the future?

Though helpful and respectable, this traditional mentoring might not be strategic in terms of innovation, as it builds on a foundation of practices that worked before—not necessarily what will drive opportunities for tomorrow. Leaders in businesses, communities, social groups, and politics must consider the value of “reverse mentoring” practices, for which managers source and engage with less-traditional audiences of different races, genders, age groups, and professional levels for insight into thinking differently about what is important to them; what will drive growth, progression, and innovation; and what will gain new thoughts and perspectives for tomorrow. These less traditional, more diverse audiences are the leaders of tomorrow, so it is critical for any business, group, community, or country to engage them today, ensure their thoughts are heard, and have them participate in conversations that shape the future.

Through this letter, my hope is that for your second term, you and your administration will be challenged to practice what you’ve preached to us to move our country forward—and that we will be inspired to follow. Similar to your cabinet, Congress, and the administration, leaders across diverse industries, communities, and backgrounds are all considering innovative solutions to create jobs, ensure safety and health, protect the environment and people, and ensure stability for future generations. To effectively do so and make a lasting impact, we must embrace the old, try the new, and appreciate the people and diversity of thought surrounding us.

Pedro Vasquez, Senior Vice President, Corporate Solutions, Jones Lang LaSalle Americas