by Brianna Crandall — September 13, 2017 — In addition to the positive impact that diversity has on the bottom line, as earlier research from global facilities services provider ISS has proven, new research from ISS Denmark shows that diversity also has a positive impact on leadership development.
The leader of a diverse team has to exercise more than one type of leadership, and the leadership style(s) must continuously be adapted to the team’s composition, to the team members’ competence profiles, to the social and professional dynamics of the team, and to the team’s tasks.
The leaders who are able to navigate and adapt to this dynamic develop a relationship-oriented, empathic management style, utilizing all the competencies in the team. The day-to-day management of diverse teams holds a large potential for developing competent leaders characterized by flexible leadership styles with many facets, such as flexibility, willingness to adapt, and empathy.
These are some of the findings in a new research project called “Diverse Teams in ISS” initiated in April 2017. By interviewing and observing daily management practices of 30 middle managers in ISS, the researchers gained insights into team members’ and managers’ daily interactions in more or less diverse teams.
Lotte Holck, postdoc and research lead, explained:
Based on the results of the research, we found three vital management skills that are actively developed through leading diverse teams: the manager as a communicator, as relations builder and as talent developer.
The Danish labor market has experienced increasing internationalization in the past decade, with the latest figures showing that 336,840 foreign nationals found their way to the Danish labor market in 2016. This is an increase of almost 45% since 2008 — and a trend that is expected to continue (article in Danish).
Out of ISS Denmark’s 7,107 employees, 3,413 are immigrants. According to ISS Denmark’s People and Culture Director Lotte Hjortlund Andersen, the large employee diversity ensures ISS leaders are made more capable of interpreting and navigating different social and cultural contexts. Andersen remarked:
The leaders are developed in an organizational culture where diversity lies in the DNA. They therefore develop into human beings who understand how to meet the individual employee as he or she is.
Creating high-performance teams
The managers’ ability to read the requirements of different team members, including their particular challenges and strengths that need to be attended to in the daily collaboration in team, is enhanced by, for instance, their experience of training employees with diversified language skills, work and educational backgrounds, cultural- and generational-related assumptions, etc.
“And good, effective training is essential for creating a high-performance culture and the basic requirement for a well-functioning team,” added Andersen.
Further findings from the research will be published in an ISS white paper in September 2017. Previous research into how diversity impacts the workplace, A Diverse Leadership Yields Higher Earnings and Diversity in Outsourcing, are also available for free download from the ISS People Management White Papers page after a brief registration.