Tag Archive for: diversity


What the Collapse of FTX tells us about Diversity; and shows Leaders where they can do Better


Samuel Bankman-Fried, by work standards, had a diverse inner circle, but groupthink and lack of perspective sank his company, FTX, and cost people billions. Skin-deep diversity is a fast track to failure.


Diversity, Shallow and Deep

The head of a Milwaukee consulting firm that trains women for participation in corporate governance told an audience last week that having two women on a board of directors leads to better decisions. A (male) spectator noted that the speaker’s board of directors consisted of women only and wondered if the presence of two men would be helpful.

The NASDAQ stock exchange has directed its participating companies to have two diverse board directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+,” or explain to shareholders why they’ve fallen short.

As I’ll discuss below, physical diversity is important for legitimacy. Tokenism is shallow, and so is having the deck stacked against you because of your chromosomes.

FTX’s collapse shows that skin-deep diversity is insufficient, and this HBR study shows why it could damage your company.

Courageous leaders broaden participation and recognize that unisex, monochrome boards lack legitimacy. They surround themselves with people who look and think differently and have different life experiences.

Diversity is an iceberg; what you see above the waterline represents a fraction of its mass. Below the surface lies the iceberg’s bulk. Ignore that and wind up like the Titanic.

Physical diversity — what you can see — is the tip; cognitive and experiential diversity occupy the depths.


Cognitive diversity occurs when you surround yourself with people who think differently. Their natural contributions provide you with alternative capacities. Some are tactical innovators willing to rock the boat, while others build consensus and keep people on board. Big-picture strategists help you solve complex challenges, but somebody’s got to manage the details. My PROM Archetypes® give you a framework for cognitive diversity. You can take the self-assessment here.

Experiential diversity includes education, development, and life experiences that provide perspective. Math and science nerds who’ve lived their entire lives in leafy suburbs, regardless of their chromosomes, are likely to have monochrome views. In contrast, people who might look the same but have varied socio-economic backgrounds, experiences, and education will enrich discussion and decision-making.

You Need All Three

Physical, cognitive, and experiential diversity gives you the capacity for good governance. Without physical diversity, your organization lacks legitimacy in the eyes of your stakeholders. If you don’t have cognitive diversity, you’ll get groupthink. Inadequate experiential diversity undermines the perspective you need to deal with complexity and uncertainty.

FTX had only tip-of-the-iceberg diversity.

Diversity in-depth, combined with a commitment to the common good, creates a board of directors or leadership team that will take your organization to new heights.

Back on Track

  • Our board looks very different than our stakeholders; what perspectives are we missing?
  • We’ve got fantastic ideas, but we keep falling short on execution. Do we have the cognitive diversity we need to be successful?
  • I feel a natural connection with everyone on this all-Ivy-Leaguer board, but we’ve missed the points of view of the people we’re serving.   
  • We agree on everything. When everyone thinks alike, it means that no one is thinking. Let’s bring in the fresh air.

Are you okay with shallow diversity?

Accountability Masterclass

This complementary masterclass on December 7 at 3:30 pm U.S. Central focuses on accountability. By the end of this masterclass, you will be able to:

* Provide feedback that improves performance and reduces awkwardness.

* Use proactive accountability to improve success dramatically.

* Enact a 3-level accountability system that increases buy-in and lowers your burden.

* Avoid common pitfalls that erode accountability and increase tension while leaving you feeling like you are the only one vested in success.

Here is the link to the masterclass on December 7 at 3:30 pm U.S. Central

Share this opportunity with one or two others you think would benefit from the discussion.


Biden’s Supreme Court pick shows that Diversity is more Than Skin Deep

Physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

I am proud of President Biden for announcing that he will nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court (he torpedoed President George W. Bush’s 2003 effort to appoint a Black woman). Organizations tend to be more legitimate when they reflect the demographics of the communities they serve, and there are plenty of Black women who will be superb justices in America’s highest court.

I hope he picks a truly diverse candidate — one from outside the Ivy League bubble. Diversity is more than skin deep. Physical diversity is only one element of a powerful triad. Like an iceberg, physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

People’s hardwiring affects how they lead organizations, solve problems, and deal with risk

The PROM archetypes(TM) illustrate the differences.

Like Malcolm X and General George Patton, Pioneers are tactical innovators who rally people behind new ideas and changes. 

Reconcilers (like Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower) manage consensus and keep people on board. 

Operators (George Washington and Indra Nooyi, for example) make the trains run on time and get things done – like Steve Jobs and Alexander Hamilton.

Mavericks are your strategic innovators who solve complex, wicked problems. (Get your PROM Archetype here).

Many large organizations show the dangers of homogeneity. The military and government, for instance, love detail-oriented people and tend to resist idea-centric people. By the time a year-group reaches senior ranks, most of the Pioneers and Mavericks have gotten drummed out or left in frustration, leaving a disproportionate number of Reconcilers and Operators. The latter self-perpetuate by selecting and promoting people who think and act like them, a problem called affinity bias. Poor strategic innovation in recent wars shows the consequences of poor cognitive diversity.

Personal experiences matter

John McWhorter shows that socio-economic circumstances are far more potent in shaping perspectives than race or gender. People tend to share worldviews with people raised and educated in similar situations. Veterans who’ve experienced intense combat have points of view different from citizens who have not. If you’ve fought your way from poverty to the middle class, you are likely to have different outlooks than colleagues who’ve been middle-class suburbanites their whole lives.

When making policies or strategies that affect people of varying circumstances, these perspectives matter. Ideas that seem sound within an elite bubble can come across as condescending or ham-fisted to those outside of it. Some progressives cannot fathom why people view “woke” as revenge racism that’s ripping society apart. Even San Franciscans seem to have had enough, recalling three uber-woke school board members. At the same time, some conservatives don’t get the outrage after calling the January 6th riot legitimate political discourse. They cannot seem to resist stepping on the 2020 election rake. Experiential diversity helps you avoid inhaling your own gas.

It’s time to get beyond the view that diversity only involves chromosomes. Leaders like you perform best when people among all parts of the diversity triad work together toward the common good.

What’s the next step in building your diversity triad?

Building your Chest – Exclusive Events

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.

The Hudson Valley in the Revolution (July 27-30) focuses on people-centric innovation. We’ll travel to Fort Ticonderoga on beautiful Lake Champlain, the famous Saratoga battlefield, the majestic garrison at West Point, and the Stony Point battlefield. Most threats to an organization’s success come from within, and this challenge was true for the Continental Army. We’ll use the history to discuss practical ways to address toxic workplace behaviors, engage and retain your top talent, inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success, and many others. You’ll build new thought leadership that will be game-changers for your clients and employees.


This Cognitive Diversity Boost can make President Biden (and you) Invincible


When under stress, Reconcilers, like President Biden, tend to give excessive weight to the loudest and most pious voices in the room.

I’ve admired President Biden since he visited our remote outpost in Afghanistan in 2008 and praised our paratroopers in a National VFW speech. I found his sincerity and open-mindedness refreshing, and he quickly got the importance of our relationship-building efforts to Afghans. Biden agreed that accumulating allies was more helpful than aggregating your enemies. He talks about that visit when he mentions the Kunar River Valley in his Afghanistan speeches.

I’m having difficulty reconciling his words in 2008 with his recent speech that branded half or more of his citizens as treasonous racists (here’s a favorable view of the speech). He deserves credit for building the most physically diverse cabinet in history and could benefit from boosting cognitive diversity among his advisers.

Just because people look different does not mean they think differently. Cognitive uniformity puts you in an echo chamber that leads to poor decisions. Confirmation bias is like freebasing your own gunpowder. When under stress, Reconcilers, like President Biden, tend to give excessive weight to the loudest and most pious voices in the room. [Stressed Pioneers, like Biden’s predecessor, often surround themselves with sycophants and become louder and more outrageous.]

Civil War General William Rosecrans, also a Reconciler, won a string of victories in Tennessee as his army captured Chattanooga. Battlelines drew together at Chickamauga. The Union generals nagged Rosecrans for particular places and reinforcements. The Confederates attacked when Rosecrans shifted forces to please a subordinate. The mass confusion led to a defeat that sent Union forces back to Chattanooga, and Rosecrans lost his job.

Lincoln and Eisenhower were Reconcilers, too, and valued cognitive diversity. They surrounded themselves with people committed to the common good who presented different points of view, respected each other, and challenged the leader’s thinking. This practice helped them to avoid super empowering the loudest and most pious. Their decisions weren’t always perfect, but they tended to avoid self-inflicted disasters.

Lincoln held the Union together, gained buy-in for the Emancipation Proclamation and the 14th Amendment, and won the war. Eisenhower amassed consensus to end the Korean War and build the interstate system, a large standing military, and a robust nuclear deterrent.

Cognitive diversity was also vital in the success of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. I highly recommend The Sword and the Shield (which is on my 2022 reading list) in which Peniel E. Joseph discusses Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Maverick) and Malcolm X (a Pioneer).\

Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks — our PROM archetypes — have distinct superpowers and different reactions when under significant stress (you tend to be your most extreme version). When you know this about yourself, you can sense the warning signs and avoid surrounding yourself with subordinates who egg you on to extremes. When you know your subordinates’ archetypes, you can recognize their stress reactions and take steps that bring them back to their best selves.

The value of history is not in teaching you what to think but in how it heightens your critical thinking skills, aids self-examination, and highlights the importance of gaining diverse perspectives from trusted sources. Freebasing gunpowder tends to create bad outcomes. Whose bringing in the fresh air for you?

Are you interested in using history to take your critical thinking skills to new heights and develop practical action steps that accelerate your success? Join me and seven others on March 15-18 for the Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive. When you have meaningful discussions with other extraordinary people at powerful venues, you gain perspective that pays dividends for life. There are three places still open.

My mission is to help successful people like you gain new heights by being the best version of yourself and inspiring people to contribute their best and most authentic selves to your team’s success.

Jeff Marquez

Jeff Marquez on leadership in Hispanic Executive

Jeff’s latest article in Hispanic Executive, “Don’t Hide the Tortillas,” introduces a vision for the Hispanic community. “We are diverse. We are strong. And we belong.”



Avoid Woke-Faux-Ness with these 3 action steps

Woke-Faux-Ness is the tendency of leaders to spill ink about social justice, fairness, and respect but avoid putting these values into practice.

Freelance writer Arwa Mahdawi inspired me with her recent article on “woke-washing.”

The say-do gap can create cynicism and internal conflict, which heightens employee disengagement, presenteeism, and turnover. These silent revenue killers are among the highest costs businesses and nonprofits face.

You know about these problems and their consequences.

You are doing your best to avoid them (otherwise, you would have unsubscribed from my list long ago).

At the same time, you are probably tired of the divisive name-calling, blanket condemnations, and facile, self-punitive hype that Columbia’s John McWhorter calls a new racism.

On the positive side of the ledger, most high-functioning people grow uneasy about cognitive dissonance and take steps to reduce the say-do gap.

Behavior change tends to follow some form of what the military calls the OODA loop: Observe-Orient-Decide-Act.

Observation inspires thought. Thought sparks words, and words spur action.

Here are some positive steps you can take.

1. Address affinity bias. Affinity bias is the unconscious tendency to gravitate toward people who look, think, and act like you.

This tendency is a part of what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking, which is governed by the amygdala section of the brain that houses our fight or flight instincts.

Yes, everybody has an affinity bias.

No, it does not mean you are a closet bigot.

Those who convert affinity bias into a conscious attitudinal bias that claims superiority over another are bigots.

Once you know about the human tendency toward affinity bias, you can engage your System 2 brain – the analytical mind – to address it. Now, you know about it.

2. Walk the Talk. Model the behavior you want to promote and hold people accountable.

You know the importance of setting the example, and that “Do as I say not as I do” is not acceptable.

“Treat people exactly how I treat people” is what you want to promote. It starts with respect – the commitment to treating everyone with equal dignity.

The temptation can be keen to overlook or rationalize disrespectful behavior by high-performers, but holding them accountable (especially if they look, act, or think like you) is vital because of their outsized impact on the organization.

One way to check the levels of mutual respect in your organization is to see how people treat your newest- and lowest-paid employees, custodial staff, and other contracted support staff.

Also, check how people leave your common areas, especially the bathrooms.

People who respect one another tend not to leave messes for others to clean-up.

3. Set-up people for success. A problem with too many diversity programs is the lack of focus on putting people into positions where they are most likely to thrive.

This problem is part of the reason the first-rung tends to be the hardest to climb for non-majority employees.  

Here are some ways to set-up people for success:

  • Align work with people’s natural inclinations and strengths. They’ll be 2X to 3X more productive, will enjoy the work more, and those factors are likely to increase their longevity and advancement.
  • Coach people to be the best version of themselves and avoid subconsciously encouraging them to be clones of you (the mini-me syndrome is another example of affinity bias).
  • Measure how confident your most vulnerable employees feel to bring their best and most authentic selves to work each day.  

Our eBook, “Build your Winning Team,” takes you step-by-step to set-up people for success. Just send an email to chris@strategicleadersacademy.com and I’ll send it to you right away.

What’s your top takeaway?

Let me know with providing a comment below or by email.

P.S. Are you ready for your NSASO session?

NSASO means No-Sales, Action-Steps-Only. I set aside time each week for these calls. We’ll discuss:

  • Your goals
  • The obstacles you want to overcome
  • 2-3 action steps to solve problems and get results

Schedule your NSASO here.

Diversity and Inclusion

Why your D&I program isn’t working and how to fix it

You would have to be an idiot not to take diversity and inclusion seriously.

Study after study shows the economic power of diversity.

A diverse, high-performing team is more productive, your leaders make better decisions, and you avoid the drama that makes for a toxic workplace.

The return on investment is such a no-brainer that companies spend millions each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs.

The likelihood that these programs deliver diverse AND high-performing teams, though, is too limited.

A recent Wall Street Journal study shows that companies are doing well in hiring diverse talent, but not in promoting them.

The first management rung seems to be the hardest to climb.

What’s happening?

Systemic bigotry is part of the problem.

Another part of the problem is that companies set their employees up for failure when they fail to align work with people’s natural inclinations.

When your hiring focuses mostly on diversity-that-you-can-see, you heighten the risk of putting the round peg in the square hole.

You know the results: heightened frustration, less productivity, and faster burnout.

People who report using their natural inclinations – their superpowers – each day are two-to-three times more productive than those who do not.

Using your superpowers each day means higher engagement, better performance, and less frustration and burnout.

Aligning work with natural inclinations is the best way to set up your employees for success so that you are more likely to retain and promote them.

We’ve developed a straightforward and free tool that you can use to promote diversity of natural strengths and make your leaders successful.

Servant leaders come in four broad archetypes: Pioneers (innovators), Reconcilers (team-builders), Operators (implementers), and Mavericks (game-changers).

Your subordinates are more likely to thrive when you put them in positions aligned with their superpowers.

You will be a better mentor when you help each person be the best version of themselves rather than sub-consciously encouraging them to copycat you.

You will also avoid what my mentor Michele Flournoy calls the mini-me syndrome – the tendency to surround yourself with people who think and act as you do.

The combination of physical and cognitive diversity will power your growth, limit expensive mistakes, and make your company a better place to work.

Do your most vulnerable employees feel that they can contribute their best and most authentic selves each day?

Get the tool here.

What’s your top leadership takeaway from this article?

Add a comment or email me at chris@strategicleadersacademy.com