The Diversity, Organizational Communication, and Citizenship Imperatives for Public Sector Leadership

By Alkadry, Mohamad G. | Competition Forum, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Diversity, Organizational Communication, and Citizenship Imperatives for Public Sector Leadership


Alkadry, Mohamad G., Competition Forum


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In the public sector, three imperatives guide the need to overhaul our understanding of leadership: the imperative of diversity, the imperative of citizenship, and the imperative of organizational communication. New theories are more sensitive to issues of diversity within cultural/ethnic/gender/orientation groups than existing theories of representative bureaucracy that emphasize group-based diversity and representation. Organizations are increasingly driven by a need to make decisions in a participative manner. Similarly, responsive organizations invite the kind of positional pluralistic leadership that would be capable of processing citizen feedback. Leadership diversity is fundamental to the ability of organizations to conduct the business of government.

Keywords: leadership, diversity, public sector, consumerism, Gramsci

INTRODUCTION

In the twenty-first century, there is overwhelming acceptance of the idea that leadership diversity is not only a matter of workforce reality, but it also makes plenty of business sense (Winston, 2001). A diverse workforce is in a better position to serve a diverse population. However, the way we have handled leadership diversity in the past made it a moving target (Irizarry and Gallant, 2006). What is essentially needed is a form of leadership that would be inclusive and would be equipped to manage diversity consistently regardless of the ethnic, racial, gender, social class, or any other identity of the followers. In this paper, I argue that leadership diversity cannot be achieved through mere tinkering, but rather through a fundamental overhaul of existing narratives and images of leadership. Three imperatives guide this overhaul of leadership: the imperative of diversity, the imperative of citizenship, and the imperative of organizational communication.

One of the key challenges in leadership diversity is the definition of diversity and representation. New theories, such as those of active representation, cultural relativism and cultural pluralism, are more sensitive to issues of diversity within cultural/ethnic/gender/orientation groups than existing theories of representative bureaucracy that emphasize group-based diversity and representation. These theories pose an important challenge to leadership within organizations. Two other fundamental shifts in public sector organizations and their environment have created new imperatives for leaders that converge with the imperatives generated by a redefinition of diversity. Organizations in the twenty-first century are driven by a need to make decisions in a participative manner, which mandates a need for less top-down communication and more allchannel communication. Similarly, the drive to have responsive organizations and the emphasis on the consumerist standpoint of citizens invite the kind of positional pluralistic leadership that would be capable of processing citizen feedback.

This article first explores the literature on diversity and representation in an attempt to redefine the concept of diversity. second, the article explores organizational communication realities that create a need for a specific type of inclusive leaders. Third, the article looks at citizenship needs, particularly the privileging of participation and standpoint in the relationship between organizations and citizens. While each of the first three sections mandates certain characteristics for a leader, the final section proposes a convergence in characteristics created by the changing realities in each of the three areas. Leadership diversity, the article concludes, is not simply a diversity matter or a leadership matter. It is fundamental to the ability of organizations to be responsive to the needs of clients or citizens - i.e. fundamental to conducting the business of government.

DIVERSITY DEFINED AND REFINED

What does diversity mean? In a narrow sense, diversity in organizations is interpreted as representation, management, retention, and hierarchical progression of members of minority and gender groups in an organization. …

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