Increasingly, colleges and universities put in place diversity awareness programs, multicultural curriculum requirements and intercultural initiatives. Doing so is still relatively recent in the grand scheme of things. People still tend to confuse these concepts, especially when it comes to diversity and multicultural competence.
Diversity VS Multiculturalism
I am currently reading a fascinating book titled: “Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment: Developing Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills”. According to the authors, Connerley and Pedersen (2005), diversity has to do with difference while multiculturalism is difference that stems from cultural aspects. In other words, knowledge, beliefs, morals, law, custom, habits and anything else acquired by individuals in the context of the society they live in is cultural. On the other hand, characteristics that were present at birth such as race, sexual orientation, and gender are elements of diversity.
They also found that building multicultural competence was a little more complex, because it was anchored in different cultures and perspectives. Multicultural differences can also be more subtle and harder to identify.
10 reasons why leaders of tomorrow will need to have multicultural competence
They proposed a list of abilities that multicultural leaders have that can make a difference in any organization:
1. Identifying positive implications in a negative experience
2. Anticipating potentially negative implications from an otherwise positive experience
3. Integrating both positive and negative events as part of a holistic perspective
4. Avoiding simplistic solutions to complex problems
5. Recognizing both the collectivist and individualistic perspective in others
6. Adjusting for the follower’s changing level of empowerment across topics and time
7. Avoiding stereotyping others
8. Recognizing that the same person can change identity across that person’s life-roles
9. Adjusting the influence of the leader to match the strengths and weaknesses of the follower
10. Maintaining harmony within interactions
Let’s train future multicultural leaders!
Going forward, I would encourage you to think about how your programs and initiatives foster both diversity and multicultural awareness. Continue to work to develop both. You should make sure that you don’t put multicultural competence development on the back burner. Use these 10 reasons to make a case for more programs in that area. Particularly include international students that, in most cases, are exposed to more cultural differences. Their perspectives and experiences could be valuable to the greater campus community.
“Culture is not external but is within the person; it is not seperate from other learned competencies. Developing multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills should be seen as a professional obligation as well as an opportunity for a leader” (Connerley & Pederson, 2005, p.41).