By Chuck Shelton

Inclusion means everyone is in, even the white guys. Investing in inclusive leadership with white male executives, in particular, is emerging as a fresh, constructive, and transformative trend for global diversity and inclusion.

This four-week series of articles builds on the findings, recommendations, and learning from the ongoing Study on White Men Leading Through Diversity and Inclusion. This is the first research to analyze and improve the effectiveness of white men as they integrate diversity and inclusion into their leadership work. Initial results in late 2012 were generated with support from nine corporate sponsors:

• Alcoa
• Bank of America
• Egon Zehnder International
• Exelon
• Intel
• Marsh & McLennan Companies
• PepsiCo
• PwC
• Wal-Mart Stores

For more on the research, and to download a free copy of the Executive Summary, go to

Solving Eight Problems

When we, as diversity and inclusion leaders, engage and equip white male leaders, our organizations will make progress in solving eight problems:

#1 The integrity of inclusion is at risk.

Inclusion has integrity only when everyone believes they are included. Almost 70% of the white male leaders responding to the Study agreed that “For a lot of white guys, it’s not clear that diversity includes white men”. The research shows that white male leaders often self-marginalize, by externalizing diversity as the company’s commitment to ‘diverse others’, by staying quiet when it comes to race and gender, and by not volunteering for D&I opportunities. And this is a two-way dysfunction: many D&I leaders have put little disciplined effort into listening to the specific concerns of white men, and few have shaped the D&I program to meet the particular learning needs of white male leaders.

#2 White male leaders are under-engaged with global diversity and inclusion.

White men are measurably less engaged with D&I than their diverse colleagues. As a key leadership cohort, they represent an under-performing asset in every company’s investment in global diversity and inclusion. Engagement on the part of all executives amplifies the return on investing in D&I.

#3 The position power white men hold is insufficiently aligned with D&I.

A corollary to white male under-engagement is this fact: the power of position that white men cumulatively hold is a weak driver of diversity and inclusion. White men hold more than half of the leadership jobs in many organizations, and that percentage increases dramatically by level. So the position power and leadership skills that white men possess needs to align with D&I’s contribution.

#4 Global diversity and inclusion is under-performing as a business strategy.

Under-engagement and insufficient alignment also threaten the strategic success of global diversity and inclusion. No business strategy, including D&I, will deliver optimal results when many with position power (white men, in this discussion) disconnect from the strategy.

#5 The Qualifications vs. Diversity divide is a stress fracture in talent management.

All employees suffer from the perceived tension between the performance merit of diverse employees and the imperative to pursue diversity. It is sobering that so many in the majority still wonder if diverse people are qualified. And it is troubling to encounter employment practices that fuel the majority’s cynicism and resistance.

#6 There is a significant gap between how white men and diverse employees perceive the D&I effectiveness of white male leaders.

In this research, when asked to rate the D&I effectiveness of white male leaders in general in their company on twelve key competencies:

• White Men responded with a 45% positive effectiveness rating.

• All Others (those who are not white men) responded with a 21% positive effectiveness rating.

The competency with the largest aggregate gap – 40 points – was including diverse voices in decision making. White male leaders have a lot of room for improvement, as they integrate D&I into their leadership work.

#7 Avoided or unresolved conflict hurts people and the organization.

All kinds of differences – like gender, race, and opinion – cause conflict. The tendency of white male executives and other leaders to avoid diversity-related conflict risks relationships, innovation, productivity, and retention. Unresolved conflicts impact results.

# 8 The needed traction from D&I metrics and accountability is slipping.

While it matters that a company tracks representation in hiring and promotion, all executives (including white men) need a more robust regimen of high-performance D&I metrics related to growing the business: e.g. multicultural sales and customer service, cost savings from decreasing the unintended loss of diverse talent, opening global markets, and goals/support to hold leaders more accountable for delivering on D&I’s potential.

If we don’t solve these problems, they will continue to haunt the organization’s progress on diversity and inclusion. In contrast, our influence as D&I leaders will soar when we learn to equip white male executives as allies in solving these challenges.

So there is a clear and powerful business case and career advantage to be discovered in white male leadership development.

In next week’s post, we will consider the emotionally intelligent launch for white male leadership development work by exploring how to create safety and handle fear.

Chuck Shelton is the managing director at Greatheart Leader Labs, the author of Leadership 101 For White Men, and the principal of the Study on White Men Leading Through Diversity and Inclusion. He has spoken, consulted, trained, and advised on leadership development and global diversity and inclusion for three decades, through more than 300 projects and presentations.