by Trevor Wilson

Author and Global Human Equity Strategist
TWI Inc.

Recently a senior executive asked me if there was one thing we could do to make inclusion and human equity happen, what would it be? I referred him to the 2005 documentary film about Enron called The Smartest Guys in the Room. I asked him to watch for the scene where Ken Lay, the CEO and Baptist preacher’s son, was explaining the ethics and integrity of Enron to a group of new Enron employees. It was an impressive presentation, full of commitment and apparent conviction. We can now look back on that presentation and know that what we were watching was a leader who could talk about an important corporate value but certainly was not walking that talk.

It has been said that a value in action is a virtue. To make diversity, inclusion and human equity a reality, organizations must bridge the disconnect between leadership virtues and frequently espoused corporate values such as dignity, respect, equity and inclusion. People will not believe any of these corporate values if they do not see them demonstrated in the organization. If leadership virtues are out of step with the public corporate values, then a diversity, inclusion or human equity program is doomed to fail.

Years ago in the book Diversity at Work, I speculated that the core competencies of a leader who treats people equally (the same) would be different than the competencies of a leader who treated people equitably (fairly). At the time I had no idea what the competencies of an equitable leader actually were. I simply knew they would be different. In the late nineties a group of academic researchers set out to help identify the core competencies of an equitable leader. They looked at hundreds of leadership competencies and put them through a template that distinguished between equitable and equal behaviour. Surprisingly, only eight showed up as equitable but not equal. These eight, now known as The Equitable Leader Competencies, serves as a strong list of the leadership and management behaviours that translate into the creation of inclusive work environments that are conducive to human equity.

The eight Equitable Leader competencies are:

  • Openness to Difference
  • Equitable Opportunity
  • Accommodation
  • Dignity and Respect
  • Commitment to Diversity
  • Knowledge of Diversity
  • Change Management
  • Ethics and Integrity

Over the past decade we have measured the impact of leadership behavior using a unique tool known as the Equitable Leader Assessment. This effective, on-line tool allows leaders and managers to measure their own behavior related to inclusive and equitable leadership and compare it to their colleagues’ perception using an automated 360 design. The ELA also allow the leader to compare their behavior to an extensive, global normative database of leadership scores. Properly measuring these eight competencies can allow an organization to identify leaders who are not walking the talk and calculate the costs of this behavior.

I am firmly convinced that everything else you do to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive work environments can be nullified if leadership behaviour is inconsistent with these eight areas. As the opening quote from Emerson implies, when it comes to human equity, people will judge their leaders by their actions not merely by their words.

This article has been sponsored by:
TWI Inc.

In 1996 Trevor started TWI Inc. to specialize in the area of equity and diversity as a business issue. In the same year, Trevor published a highly acclaimed book titled Diversity at Work: The Business Case for Equity. The firm’s clients include some of the most progressive global employers. TWI’s Human Equity™ approach was instrumental in catapulting Coca-Cola’s South African division to the top performing division worldwide. Visit for more information.