How Diversity and Inclusion Leaders Drive a Stronger Culture

Jason Hanold, CEO and Co-Managing Partner at Hanold Associates shares how Diversity & Inclusion leaders impact culture and characteristics of great D&I leaders


Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs have been vital to smart companies that want to attract and retain the best talent. However, it’s the lack of such efforts at some organizations that have been making headlines lately in the business press.

D&I programs are largely ineffective without a culture that drives and supports them. We’re watching business after business come under fire for mistakes that highlight a lack of understanding, sensitivity or strong ethics. Check out, for example, some of the recent media coverage about Uber and its culture-related issues.

Aside from just being the right thing to do, having a company culture that’s accepting, supportive, diverse and inclusive results in better business performance. Diverse teams inspire and motivate innovation and creativity. This in turn helps organizations attract, engage and inspire the best talent.

To drive these programs, organizations need strong leaders to ensure the company culture supports D&I goals day in and day out.

When hiring heads of D&I, we expect these individuals to have the traits of most other key HR and operational executives: strong business acumen, grit, willingness to be vulnerable, effective communication skills and so on.

The most distinctive D&I leaders also are:

  • They have the wherewithal and the energy to lead D&I programs that make a noticeable impact. They’re excited and that passion is infectious to others in the organization.
  • Few are career-long D&I practitioners but have led other aspects of the business driving transformation and change. This gives them a deeper understanding of how to build programs that will connect with employees across the business.
  • Always learning. They are voracious readers outside of work and fuse their vocation with avocation, becoming smarter in the space. The workplace and the world continue to change rapidly. D&I leaders must be at the forefront, making sure their organization stays up to par with a culture that supports its vision and mission.
  • Strong relationship people. They have exceptional influencing capabilities, enabling them to inspire others. They know that company culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum and use their influence to make a positive impact.

With these traits and a desire to truly activate change, D&I leaders can positively impact companies, and, in effect, the broader community around them.