Do we underestimate the quality in diversity?

Inclusiveness comes from seeing people and making them feel they belong. We can try to fit in ourselves but in doing this we can easily start to loose our identity. We look at others and our social system to see what is accepted and try to fit in accordingly. However, when we belong, we are accepted as we are and included in the life of the group. To belong is important for people to give and invest. Then, we are stockholders in a vision, in a culture, and in shared values. 

Belonging to a group, a community or to a movement means that people are free to add their flavor and add their talents and personality. They belong and therefore they are safe. They are protected and included. Fitting in means that I need to change somehow, looking like the group, having the same view on big questions, and in the most extreme situations, also the small questions. 

Fitting in is often what we do in primary and high school.  We adopt the style of the “cool guys”. We have opinions that are in line with the group we would like to fit in with. We become sensitive to what clothes we are wearing. You may have different groups- some looking like hippies and others are the sports guys or the music dudes. They all have their style. We adapt to fit in, to not become an outcast with the group we desire to be a part of. 

Part of growing up and part of developing a healthy me is to ask questions about what am I doing. Am I striving to fit in or am I belonging wholeheartedly to what I believe in? 

Much of my work is in organisations, NGO´s, churches and within communities. Often I am struck by the “fitting in” culture that I find- “to be a part of us you need to dress like us”.  We can find this in churches where strict clothing code is practiced, but only a few people can explain the theology behind it and even then it is strongly questionable. Usually these codes are so deeply rooted in the culture that it is hard to break away from them. 

We can see it in alternative movements where “feel good” and “what is right for you” is what determines whether things are good or not. Try to express some more conservative values and it becomes hard. You may share the common value of saving the planet but not carry the same value on other essential things in life. Can you still belong? Or do you need to fit in? 

I believe that we often underestimate the quality in diversity. We want likeminded people in our group or in our leadership team but without diversity we are loosing out on something that is crucial to growth and development, which is seeing things from different perspectives. 

To get the best out of each team member you need to look for the one or two qualities that the person has, and embrace it. Some people are really high on management and organisational leadership, but not necessarily gifted in visionary leadership. Then let that gift come forward in all its beauty and get others on the team with a strong visionary leadership. This will complement and strengthen the leadership. Building teams means taking different bricks and putting them together.  Some are the foundation bricks, some are the corner brick, some are the weird brick that is hard to fit but that will make all the difference because it adds character and creativity.  They are often the people that see things from “outside the box” … 

What does your team look like? 

Sometimes we think peace is unity, but often peace in our team also can be a big lack of vision and creativity. Don’t sacrifice vision for peace, but allow diversity. When leaders really do this they protect unity because nothing is more powerful than creative processes that lead more people to finding a place to belong. Belonging gives one a good sense of safety and it affirms our identity. It’s what we get in healthy families where parents love their children unconditionally, meaning that even when children from time to time mess up or do not always do as parents would like them to do, they are always received at home. Belonging is a part of family DNA. It’s often traditionally described in our last name.  It’s our family culture and traditions. 

Belonging is when you can walk in to an organisation and identify that there is room for one more- one more that is abnormal, atypical and as problematic as you and I. Belonging is when you can come as you are, without changing the colour or style of your hair or wardrobe, without changing how you are and your identity, without changing your family background. Belonging means there is room for you. 


Rune Saether

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