Good Diversity Leaders Work Hard At Self-Awareness

by Susan Klopfer, Group Klopfer

Self-awareness is at the heart of strong leadership. Effective diversity leaders stay ahead by working to improve this critical skill.

An important key is committing oneself to the lifelong practice of self-understanding and comprehending the diverse world around us. No matter how hard a person tries, we all have biases; we discriminate without even recognizing what we are doing.

William Sonnenschein, a noted diversity expert and author, suggests overcoming this tendency by “waking up tomorrow morning” and “try wondering what prejudice you will discover during the day, what assumption you will make that will be proven wrong, what bias will affect your day.”

By finding a daily bias, Sonnenschein believes a person will know they are continually working on self-awareness, show themselves they are self-aware enough to know they have biases, and are working at eliminating as many as possible.

As people work on self-awareness, they become aware of things that are happening around them and are able to intervene and taking on a leadership role.

What if a company leader who always views diversity in terms of numbers of employees, as Affirmative Action, attended a diversity workshop that included formation of problem-solving teams and observed that diverse teams actually did a better job solving problems than the vanilla teams?

This experience could actually change the way this company leader sees diversity and what it could mean to his company. He may also recognize how his own blinders had held back his company’s progress.

This imaginary company leader might further recognize that change is needed at every level of the organization. As an initial step, he might create a diverse group to staff one of the company’s trouble areas – and if all goes well, the troubled area could turn around, showing a profit.

So how does one work on self-awareness, so as to be more aware of what is going on around them with respect to diversity? It starts by working on communication skills in relation to diversity. Sonnenschein has developed a diversity questionnaire to help increase self-awareness. Here are three sample questions:

  • Do you recognize and challenge the perceptions, assumptions, and biases that affect your thinking?

If the answer is “almost always,” assign one point; “frequently,” 2 points; “sometimes,” 3 points; “seldom” 4 points and “almost never, “5 points.” Use the same scoring system for the next two questions:

  • Do you think about the impact of what you say or how you act before you speak or act?
  • Do you do everything you can to prevent the reinforcement of prejudices, including avoiding using negative stereotypes when you speak?

Sonnenschein includes seven more questions in this diversity questionnaire, part of his Diversity Toolkit (Contemporary Books, 1997). The lower the score, the better is one’s ability to communicate in a diverse organization and the community at large.

Here are three more diversity leadership tips:

  1. Know your cultural identity and understand what that identity brings to your communication. This helps in communicating with others of differing cultural identities.
  2. Ask others about yourself and listen to their answers. This helps in increasing self-awareness.
  3. Examine your order or grading of values. This helps in understanding how you behave and communicate.

Effective manager are good leaders. They are responsible for creating a work environment in which the contributions of all people are recognized. For this to happen, managers must understand how to best use people’s differences so that their special attributes can be used to achieve company goals and objectives.

But it starts from within, from the manager’s self-awareness.

About the Author :

Say — effective diversity management helps any organization. Susan Klopfer, M.B.A., speaks, consults and writes on the topic. Her new book, Profit From Diversity; Getting Along With Others, is set for publication Nov. 15, during National Education Week. Learn more from her website at today.


  1. There are a few things worth saying about self awareness. Self Awareness is like a rope, many different purposes and uses. It pulls, supports, binds, frees and saves. Self aware says a lot in it self. It pulls you because we all get off track so the pull should be welcomed. No one does well unbalanced. Self Awareness supports the path of impartiality, being the humans we are the experiences we’ve had fails and success we base our choices and even superstitions on like the fifteen second rule. Binds, binds friends to become the reflection of family. It can bring them together because of life’s chapter and your roe in it and they’ve lived it the same. Freedom and saving others from a burden or two by helping an individual of management realize that you are coming up the same ladder they now are in charge of. Finally in closing rescue or saving you from self doubt, never losing that godly secret that’s its okay to be the one idea that hasn’t been done or seen before.

  2. I as many was raise to not judge others in no shape or form. Agreeing that not was and will be raised the same, we should always be open-minded and understanding.

  3. I was raised to never judge others. I feel that we are all equal; well not everyone will agree. But i look at it like no matter the skin color, or cultural background that’s what makes us out own person. Only God can judge those, and we just need to get along. Violence isnt always the answer for everything. I am a person who doesn’t judge, I except everyone, and I don’t look at anyone different.

  4. Diversity can be a very good thing. Different cultures of many can be learned, as well as background. Being from the south and moved to the north. I have met different types of cultures… so yes, diversity is a good thing.

  5. I personally believe that diversity in the work place is crucial and beneficial because it help any company or any work place grow and profit in many ways. Having people of different cultures and background opens up the opportunity for more ideas and innovations that can be brought into the work place. Ultimately helping the company reach different goals and acquiring success.

  6. octavia washington

    I think diversity is good because there are different kind of people the world it can make good leadership

  7. We all speak our mind from time to time but in my case its when someone tries to take my kindness for weakness(thats when pressure burst the pipe).For the most part I was raised to respect everybody’s choices, religion, mind set, etc. Dont get me wrong it doesnt mean I agree with whats going on/ what one does. Bottom line I can get along with anybody until Im crossed wrong, then that long handle spoon comes into play.

    • Yes, I totally agree with you. I was also raised in the same manner. I have always respected others beliefs, opinions, and choices rather I agreed with it or not. When I was younger I wouldn’t speak my mind. However, as I grew older and people continued to take my kindness for weakness I began to speak my mind when necessary.

  8. I believe in the best way to go through challenges of communication & diversity in life is to look within. I was raised Catholic traditionally & Christianity is my major for a stronger force with Toltec spirituality as my minor. Meaning I accepted Christ in my heart @ 16 & made him Lord of my life reading from the word of god in King James version as my life in how to be in this world i.e. love & treat others how you wish to be treated. Forgive 7 times 70 & speak from your heart song which is authenticity, kindness & compassionate, accepting of others without judgement. Toltec spirituality taught me behavior & how you can relearn & recreate a better you by erasing negative thoughts and misconceptions of oneself. I believe in their four basic agreements that my parents instilled in my siblings & I through their moral values. Starting with your integrity: Be impeccable to your word, honest & true in your speaking & thoughts. Mindfulness: Don’t make assumptions. Self Awareness: Don’t take anything personally but own what your accountable for. Lastly to strive to be a loving, caring, evolving & empathetic person by doing your very best every day as a daughter, sister, mother and friend. Regarding the workplace; I adapted the best reaction is no reaction until you have all facts to assess fairly. Until you have all information think not only with your mind but with your heart as much as you can because the greatest gift of all comes from that and it’s “Love” – your Heart’s song. By His Grace, Rose DeLuca

    • Betty sutton cowlishaw

      being from the South alot of people are very judge mental on color .I was blessed my mama taught me to see what is on the inside not the outside.I was also taught your word is your promise to do what you say to the best of your ability. I am a christian an I don’t judge. I try to give help where help is needed .be good an do your best ,because what goes around comes around.

  9. I was always taught to accept people the same way I wanted to be accepted. I have a diversified family and I don’t see color but, people. We all have our differences and that’s what makes us so unique. I do seam to speak my mine without thinking but I am working on it with God’s help.

    • people no matter who they are.from different backgrounds,and cultures were all the same.

      • Rhonda Davis
        I agree that we are all the same in biological ways, but we are also all different in our thinking, personalities, likes, and dislikes, etc. I try to treat everyone with the same kindness, respect, and honesty that I would want myself. Sometimes we learn from others and sometimes we teach others, that’s how we help each other to grow.

  10. this is very good to do and iam learning about other people and enjoy what they have to say about there life and also about learning other people and expressing about what they have to say that is coming from there minds and hearts

  11. I’m a very emotional person no matter if its good or bad. I have learned over the past six years after having kids i need to control my emotions and what and how i say things and some times its not what u say its how u say it. Some people need to think before they speak cause words do hurt more than people know.

    • yes iam also very strong and emotional about my feeling for me and other and friends and family members to also and its very hard for me to express. what i want to say.or how to say things when someone say. something to hurt me or someone else that.i feel that is not right then that’s when i sometimes ask if i can come in on the conversations.

  12. I believe in self awareness also because if people just say what’s on their mind and don’t filter what they say then it could be bad like around kids or mainly make yourself look ugly. I tend to make sure I don’t say negative around my kids and with having kids it helped me to not cuss or say negative. I’m still working on it but people really should think before. Words do hurt 🙁

  13. If every thing was the same; if we did not have diversity in our lives; this would be a very, very boring planet to live on.

    • yes i can agree with you on this we all would be boring planet and also people to so this is .
      very truth about what you said.

      • because sometimes i be thinking like what if we didnt have diversity around period and then what .just sitting like if anything did happen.

  14. I had learned over the years that I need to think before I speak or react to a situation. This is especially true in the workplace. I used to react right off the bat with negativity when I was approached with negativity. Now I try to stop and think before I respond.I find this gets me a whole lot further than what I used to get.

  15. The magazine states good points on how to work good and cooperate with others. I feel that over time and correctness with building a strong foundation with yourself and others would be very effective in some areas. Also, having the ability to do that you can’t defeat and justify what problems are in the way, along with great communication with others.

  16. I think that anyone with the ability to use people’s differences so that their special attributes can be used to achieve company goals and objectives have a no fail system which puts them on a path of definite success.

  17. Self awareness should be a universal way of thinking. Self diversity should play an important role in who you are in any given environment.. Especially in a corporate environment where there is a diverse culture of people and interesting minds that is geared towards success. Your self awareness will attract the results you aim for and the energy needed to perform at your greatest.

  18. You have to want to accomplish what your goal is and listening to others helps in guiding.

  19. I think we all have different tasks in life but its what we do to over come these challenges in our life
    we all have goals we want reach. but a person has to want to reach those goals in life.

  20. I think life is all about the choices you make. It is always good to listen to others thoughts and ideas. The main thing in life is to know were you come from and your history if you don’t you might as well be lost. You have to search for your self don’t believe everything you hear.

  21. I was raised never judge a book by its cover. I admit though I have a really bad mouth, I speak without thinking of the outcome. Serving in the Military has taught me to be diverse and accept all walks of life.

  22. I honestly feel that you will find a superior group within a diversified class. If you put the same diversified class in different situations you will start to see the strengths and weaknesses of the groups. Also, more diversity may mean that there are more rules. People of the same backgrounds practice the same concepts. Therefore having a mixed group would mean different concepts and regulations. To put everyone on one accord, rules would have to be very specific.

  23. I think self awareness is a beautiful tool towards maturity and self growth. While I do believe that all should be treated equally I am a firm believer that we all work out of our own bag and sometimes we have to handle different situations accordingly. Because you never know what’s on the next person’s mind or how they maybe thinking at the time. It’s a touchy situation but ultimately I feel that sometimes you just have to cross the bridge when you get there. Especially if you’re the boss or working towards being one.

  24. I feel that all should be treated equally. But as ” everybody works out of their own bag” so to speak some situations just has to be handle accordingly. Sometimes we just have to cross that bridge when we get there. Because two things we can’t do is control another person’s mind or know for sure what their really thinking.But I found this to be a very intriguing,and informative discussion and look forward to many more.

  25. Regina Washington

    Diversity is everywhere in the workplace and environments and everyone have to adapt to changes. Diversity is another word for survival of fittest. It should be fun to try new adventures and adapt to diversity

  26. Diversity is everywhere and all of the worlds creatures should learn to adapt and learn from our adverse surroundings, while trying not to be bias. I see things in my character that I try to change, and the people around me help me decide what needs more work.

  27. The method a diversity outlook is successful

  28. I love this, an feel like this is much more common than we actually realize. Reading this article on Diversity has showed me that I see this all the time.

  29. I think that knowing oneself is the key to success in life. Knowing who you are and what you stand for, allows you to not only better yourself but the people around you.

    • Self-awareness plays an important role in my life. I have a bad habit speaking and acting without being aware of my surroundings. I’ve came to realize that those actions weakens my progress among my peers and life goals.

  30. I think it is one of the best

  31. It’s good and bad to learn, but we all have it. Despite where we are in life, but understanding it puts a big difference in your life. Makes you more aware of you surroundings.

  32. Believe It Or Not! I Feel Like Everyone Is Using Diversity And They Don’t Even Know It.

    • I believe that as we treat others we will be treated. As my grandmother always taught me, there are bad apples in every barrel and if not careful they will mess up the whole bunch. Sooner or later the bad apples will be found but you don’t throw out the whole barrel just because one or two.

      We need to have compassion for all and show love to all. We are all one family with a Heavenly Father to watch over us. Even in the work place we do need to show love to our workers and show them that they are just as important to the business as we are , sometimes I think that sometimes they are more important because they are dealing with the public everyday.

      I have been on both sides of the table and I love a good support team as well as a good boss.

  33. Deshundranique Williams

    Diversify is a great word to know the mean of. I believe if everyone in this world would know the meaning of that word. Don’t matter what color or position you have over others! I believe that it would be much more respect on one another. My goal is to build a business and to help others and put nobody else down because of my position. I want my business to be a family, friend and fun work place.

  34. diversity is everywhere

  35. It is important to understand oneself. I used to say when I was younger that it didn’t matter what people thought of me. Those were my more defiant years. As I got older and got out into the work force and met more people and went to some seminars and meetings, I noticed that it did matter what my attitudes were and how my thinking could influence other people’s perceptions of me. I had to learn how to carry myself depending on the occasion. I had to learn to look at myself through other people’s eyes. Slang did not always go over well, so I had to learn to “think outside the box”. This was not always easy to do. I found that I seemed to loath myself. I had to learn to forgive myself. It is not always easy to look at yourself in the mirror after a good tongue lashing from someone with more experience in life than you, but knowing that that person cares about you, you’ll take note and listen. I found that I am a good ally for myself and now others come to me for advice. You never know who is watching you and taking note of your actions.

  36. Diversity in a team is a good thing, as long as all of those diversities are positive. There is a difference in working smarter as opposed to harder, and then there is just laziness. Our cultural differences may work to our advantage, but I think that it is more important to realise someones potential more by what their strengths and weeknesses in any given subject matter are as opposed to the color of their skin, or cultural background as this article was ascerting. Personally I dont care if you are a little green Martian if you can do the job and bring insight to the subject, but I will not go out of my way to put together a team based on racial or cultural diversity, but rather meritocracy. My bias is against lazy people.

    • One question is “How do you define lazy”? Some cultures take longer to make a decision. Others wait until there is a consensus to move forward, while others wait for the leader to decide for them. Too often, what we perceive as laziness is a merely a style difference. So harnessing the diversity on a team is the challenge, but according to the research the rewards are worthwhile.

  37. Hello, I think that Diversity is a must, because in todays workforce we are expected to work along side people of many different cultures and backgrounds, that’s why I think it should be mandatory for all companies to have to provide an interpreter to make it easier for coworkers to communicate, this would help to make every company or business more successful and attractive to new hires.

  38. I like it because I think that everyone should be treated equal no matter what the situation is.

  39. Diversity is everywhere. I think that people should understand that. There are different types of people with different goals and ideas all over. I don’t think we can fully understand ourselves unless we understand everything around us and how it affects us as a entire human race. We all have different perspective and backgrounds. No one person is the same.

  40. I think diversity is something you need to have everywhere you go. I am a server at Ihop and no matter what job you work in, you will see how your actions and words are used when speaking to customers. Being aware and understanding everything with an open heart and open mind is a great communicative skill that, I think, everyone should develop. Its very hard for me sometimes to get myself aligned with being understanding to others, this article reminded me that every day you wake up is a blessing and to have as much diversity as we do is a blessing. We need people, thoughts, actions, strong leaders, open hearts, all kinds or this world would not be where it is today. Diversity is definitely a suitable trait that will help you in many ways in life.

  41. I think diversity is good because it makes things that matter in different cultures &/or religions be seen by the (so called outside) world in a different light. It can give a person &/or peoples a very different understanding. In some cases it has proven to be that looking into and understanding of said diversities. One can understand and respect his/her fellow human being.

  42. Diversity these day is becoming very common. We have interracial marriages, relationships, and interracial dating. Some mentioned The President War one doesn’t like Mexicans, the other one agrees on Abortion, so who do you vote for ?

  43. I beleave it is verry important to treat people the way you to be treated,rather if it is in a work place,on the internet or in person.IT is also important to value someone else’s opinion.Those type of thing’s can help you be a better person in the work place,or in general.

  44. I believe that self awareness starts on how one has been raise, i think that being taught with family values and being respectful and wanting another to treat you as you treat is key, in having a good feel of yourself and giving those the satisfaction of saying now that’s a nice individual maybe I am asking for much but it not impossible for another individual to be nicer than you, being nice and happy give you a good sense of being satisfied.

  45. I think that it is very easy to treat an individual the way you want to be treated.I believe in treating some one with respect and value their opinion as well as mine . This can only start growth and maturity in this person. Know that the next person or groups are just as important. It can also br good for the workplace , so many people need that my input counts.

  46. I think diversity is a very serious matter because everyday we go through different situations that we have to make a decisions based on what we see.

  47. Diversity is very important in the world today. We are about to elect the next President but who is the right one. The one who is against Muslims or the one who thinks that everything they do is the right thing. If we elect the one with specific ideas about the Muslims then where will our country be. Especially in such an important position we need someone with an open mind and an idea of the importance of diversity. We can all learn from each other if we keep an open mind and are willing to listen to each other. Closed minds lead to problems with others.

  48. iI believe Diversity is important in the workplace. Many Individuals suffer from handicaps that are unseen to others overlooked. Working with coaches and sellf willingness. the Breakthrough swystem cosist of training that will help- you become successful. You will have a transformation that will create life changes for you .It is an understanding of yourself and how to overcome these hurdles

  49. I believe that Diversity is important in the work place, or in any commonplace where there is
    many cultures. My opinion is Diversity is a key factor in world peace as well as peace of mind

  50. Ethnocentrism is the base for these biases. Every culture’s belief the reign true right and supreme over the next. Children, however don’t show most of these right away. Therefore, I believe these biases are learned natures. We almost seem to carve biases into them. I believe if we maintain ourselves, in a deeper acceptance and love o diversity and work together to set a more open, loving, diversified example for our children, perhaps we can achieve a unity like never before seen in any of our lifetimes. After all variety is what makes the world go round. Ad diversity opens the door to a broader horizon.

  51. Diversity should involve fairness. Every choice made by a hiring manager or contractor should be made by what is fair. No one side should have favor over another. The more qualified individual should be hired. Fairness has no ethnic boundaries. Fair and equal is what every society covets.

  52. I use to work as a truck pusher at the company that I worked for before I got laid off. There was days that the drivers I had driving would rebel toward me about the jobs I wanted them to do and I asked my boss about it and he told me to listen to how I talked to them.So I did and I was treating them with very little respect or no respect at all. So I toned my attitude down and thought about what I said and mt action made a total difference between the drivers and me

  53. In any business whether manager,owner,or employee, diversity is very important. Having an open mind to everything and everyone is a must. Thinking before you speak or act is not just important but it shows your true character. Also being involved in a business means being involved in other people. No 2 people are exactly alike. We are all different in thinking,acting,and speaking. I know I always try to understand and show that I do not think my way and that’s the only way. Putting yourself in other’s shoes can help to understand why everyone thinks and act the way they do .

  54. Its very amazing to know and learn about diversity that is taking place in the world today,I didn’t realize that a such rule has applied to me.I have learned something today from this article.I have to train myself to think in such away to bring out the best out of me.I should allow their comments to help shape and develop the idea goals of my mind.By doing so,it can make good leaders and managers in the world.Its good to know that others are on the same path!


    I think Diversity is good because different type of people have different challenges but have the same goals and objectives but may need input from others to help get insight to help them realize that others have the same or challenges to meet their goals and responsibilities. Its takes someone that is on the outside looking in to help communicate what you don’t understand or see and is not aware of whats going on and what would be the best solution to the problem keep the from reaching their goals and objectives. By giving Input.

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