Dr Paul Vallet: Welcome to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy podcast. I'm your host, Dr Paul, Vallet, Associate Fellow with the GCSP’s Global Fellowship Initiative. For the next weeks, I'll be talking to you with subject matter experts to discuss issues regarding peace, security, and international cooperation. Thank you for tuning in. When tackling international or local crises and problems, adequate expertise and leadership are required, in a diverse world, with increasingly diverse sets of actors, what does it mean to exercise leadership? Can we expect traditional leaders to hold it exclusively? Or should we foster the emergence of leaders wisdom within the diversity of our communities? Leadership training is one of the core activities through which the GCSP aims to reinforce peace and security and to discuss where this is going within a growingly diverse audience, I'm talking today with Ingrid Gazquez. Ingrid Gazquez is currently the Leadership Portfolio Manager for the Geneva Leadership Alliance, the partnership between the GCSP and the Center for Creative Leadership. A Spanish lawyer by profession actively engaged in advancing individual rights and sustainable development, Ingrid has built this expertise through work in the private sector for the Mondelez Group's corporate life, the Sustainability Cocoa Program, but also in the non-profit sector, as a founder of the NGO Mundoz, and as a learning and development specialist supporting developing activities to strengthen developing countries to strengthen their health supply chains, with the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Malaria and tuberculosis. Ingrid is the course director for the April virtual edition of the “Lead and Influence with Impact” or LIMPACT Course. So welcome to the podcast Ingrid.
Dr Paul Vallet: My first question to you would be indeed, when proposing a course addressing the diversity of potential actors of change across the world? Are we talking about leadership or rather about empowerment? And are these two concepts linked according to your experience?
Ms Ingrid Gazquez: Thanks for that question, Paul. So first of all, I would like to start stating that leadership is an evolving concept it is not static, because it happens with people around the context. So, the Center for Creative Leadership actually defines leadership as a social process that enables individuals to work together and achieve results. And those results could never be achieved working in isolation as individuals, so people are needed to make leadership happen. And actually, we don't picture a leader just sitting at home alone working in isolation. So adding this extra layer of diversity is linked to inviting more people to that leadership process, to be able to be part of the conversation, to expand the space so that we could fit more people. And then that at the same time brings new perspectives, new points of view, based on their own experiences and biases, of course. I think the question goes back to understanding who is a leader, what do we understand by a leader? Is it someone that has the position or the authority and rules around? Or is it maybe someone that maybe doesn't have the position but is still able to influence others? The reality is that we become more powerful when we empower others, and great leaders unleash the leader within each person, and allowing them to use their own power that allows people to feel like they are contributing. And this is exactly the intention when we work on participants from all around the world with different age groups and generations and different industries. It's the perfect soup to cook something tasty, where we're letting that happen, where we can unpack assumptions, provoke reflections, and learn together partly because of the context that we build for participants. So yes, to answer your question, I think definitely one could argue that leadership is linked to empowerment, of course.
Dr Paul Vallet: And well, of course, you've worked with really quite a different set of people throughout your career and in supporting their leadership skills and their empowerment and according to your experience, so what obstacles do minority members face to exercise leadership roles within their communities? And how does teaching help them to overcome this?
Ms Ingrid Gazquez: So, let me start just maybe reframing the, the teaching others because I think what we try to do is not to be in a position where we teach, and they learn. But exactly because of this diversity in the room, and the richness that we create around, we all learn together, including the subject, experts, we continuously grow and this happens on a constant basis and about minorities, if you allow me, I would like to unpack that, that word, because that can mean so many different things in different contexts or scenarios. So, we will be talking about minorities culturally, or ethnically or rationally. So, it's coexisting with a with a subordinated, dominant group. And gender is, of course, another layer when we talk about minorities. What we have learned when facilitating learning processes with diverse groups is that the “one size fits all” obviously does not work. Due to the nature of different scenarios where participants need to go back and actually apply practices. The underlying objective is for participants to be able to apply what they learn once they go back to the conflict areas where they work, protecting civilians or in a headquarter where they face internal politics or NGO teams where they face this coordination. And there is inefficiency. If participants are not able to put into practice all that, then the course is actually not working, we are failing them. That's why in our courses and projects, we do share a toolkit of practices that participants can start applying from the course itself, we do offer different frameworks and tools that they can adapt to their context and decide how to best use them. And the course itself is a safe space that we create so that they can start practicing with those new tools.
Dr Paul Vallet: Well, I do stand corrected, as you were, as you mentioned, that, indeed, you know, the learning process here is very much about sharing the experiences that the course participants bring. And so that leads me of course, to my next reflection is what have we learned about how is leadership exercised, whether it's in a different style or with different methods, when the leaders that we bring forth do represent this diversity that exists within communities.
Ms Ingrid Gazquez: So, I will say that, when working with multicultural teams, sometimes sitting from different parts of the world with different time zones, there is the need for leaders to learn to create value out of that diversity. It is not as a nice to have anymore, but it is a must. So managers are responsible to take that responsibility for creating a diverse and inclusive work environment. And some companies are supporting the effort adding diversity and inclusion as objectives to be considered on the yearly appraisals. That's definitely a way to show commitment towards diversity from organisations. What we also see happening is this concept of cosmetic diversity, which is different from the real diversity, what comes to my mind is the United Colour of Benetton fashion clothing campaigns, where you could see all sort of skin colours in a picture. The reality is that if you have that in a team, but all those belong to the same generation have studied in the same elite University and have been raised in similar context, is that real diversity, because that seems pretty homogeneous. In a way, the magic happens, actually, when the diversity is diversity of thought. That means people around you have different and diverse experiences in race, gender, social, socio economic background, but also differences when it comes to learning in the professional field. It's important to be able to harvest all those ideas that actually bring innovation and offer a chair on the table to many different voices. The reality is that the world is changing constantly. And the issues we need to solve are different each time. So, one of the ways that organisations are adapting is listening to what is changing around and using those voices to have a spectrum of ideas, right? For all that to happen, what needs to happen. Actually, the ability to have challenging conversations to have better conversations, to have more dialogue, to accept different points of view that needs to be built as part of the DNA of organisations, and all that starts maybe by learning how to give and receive feedback. So that practices of having a growth mindset are embedded. So, this is part of our curriculum in all our courses. And we encourage participants to actually have those conversations and actually try new things out so that they start processes within their own teams that could actually grow through the organisation.
Dr Paul Vallet: Well, what you're seeing is also I think, bringing a reflection on my part, I thought about it as the question, but this is maybe more something that we can probably relate to. But listening to you, I can't help feeling that this also has some applications in conflict resolution. And not just issues of leadership, because if the, say the traditional holders of leadership are exposed to alternate voices to alternate methods to proposals coming from traditionally more underrepresented members of a very diverse public, then perhaps there is if they're willing to learn and listen, something to gain for themselves to about this. So, I do think it's quite important. And well, bringing me right now to more I think, current events and what is characterised, of course, over the past year as well, too. We've seen in the United States, but elsewhere in the world. And apparently growing, I would see a growing trend and demand for representation by representatives of diversity of the diversity within societies. And so, of course, I was wondering whether we're looking at something that is really more of a recent trend, or in your experience of working in the field of leadership training, have you seen this demand and this movement exist for some time, and has it just gathered momentum recently.
Ms Ingrid Gazquez: So you could argue that, um, diversity as a general concept has been built over decades, diversity in general started being discussed during the Second World War, when women joined the workforce since men were away doing the military service. And then we have seen improvements over the years in the 60s with the civil rights movements, that offered opportunities for more ethnicity diversity in the workplace, but actually probably is from 20 years ago that companies have understood that diversity in the workplace is something useful, actually. Employers have realized that cultural diversity in the workplace brings benefits and recruitment practices have changed, the policies are new, they have been tweaked to be more appealing to be more appealing to a more ethnically diverse talent pool. Diversity can also be generational, rational, educational. So, there are so many types of diversity that that we still see companies sort of getting their organisations understanding that that's important, because actually, the company itself is going to benefit from it. Diversity fosters innovation and creativity, when you pair a fresh graduate with someone that has more experience. Actually, that's the recipe for innovation, diverse teams perform better, detect errors faster and are able to come up with more creative ideas. So, I guess there is more evidence now that all that happens. And it happens because diversity is treated as an asset rather than as ticking boxes. And maybe that's why we have the feeling that it's a trend now. Also, I believe the current situation has forced many organisations to reinvent how they do things, how they approach their business, how they see the world. And that requires new lenses. It requires the teams to find answers to the new questions arising.
Dr Paul Vallet: We can see that Well, perhaps we're, we're already in the midst of carrying out this experiment, then I suppose my natural ultimate question to you would be whether it's already possible at this stage to observe the growing attention given to diversity and leadership training? Is that yielding particular results? And do we see it manifest the expressed in more domains than others? Or are we really looking at an overall improvement of diversity representation in leadership and of course diversity impact on leadership too?
Ms Ingrid Gazquez: I believe the conversation is definitely richer, and has evolved from talking about quotas to tick the box of diversity to actually valuing diverse teams. You see companies now embedding diversity training in their training portfolios for employees, you see HR bottom line dedicated to streamlining diversity to take advantage of it. I also believe that managers have understood that you don't need to compromise the quality of your hires or promotions in order to expand the diversity of the organisation's talent. Also, for companies that have decided to make their diversity visible, that's actually the key for the system itself, to show that it's fair, that there are opportunities within the system that people can grow and succeed. So, I think we are in a better situation where we went from ticking boxes and quotas to celebrating real diversity and taking, taking advantage of it. In relation to the domains or sectors, I don't see a particular difference between any in the one that that I work in the peace and security space, I see organisations now having dedicated leadership programs that include diversity, and this is something new, you couldn't think about this 10 years ago. So, I believe we are on the right track. Still a lot to do, but on the right track.
Dr Paul Vallet: Of course, if there wasn't a course or rationale for us to continue working on this, that would be probably a shame but and bearing in mind also, the greater diversity in the world and addressing either companies or organisations that have a global span and are confronted to issues of exactly cultural difference. That may also be something in which there is an ongoing learning process, to move from, you know, this cultural diversity as a bit of an impediment towards making it a full instrument, part of the company or the organisation strategy. So, we're, I guess that that is indeed an ongoing learning process. So, I think that is something that is food for thought and all we have time for today's episode. So once again, I want to thank you, Ingrid, for joining, joining us today to talk to us about this issue. And we're hoping that the next LIMPACT courses will indeed have the impact of they're looking for.
Ms Ingrid Gazquez: Thanks for the opportunity.
Dr Paul Vallet: You're welcome. Please listen to us again next week to hear the latest insights on international peace and security. Don't forget to subscribe to us on Anchor FM, Apple iTunes. You can also follow us on Spotify and on SoundCloud. I'm Paul Vallet with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. So, until next time, bye for now.
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