Book Review April 2007
Reviewed by Janelle Gordon
The days of conducting business exclusively in one state or country are long gone for most major corporations. Today, many American companies not only have offices in New York City and Los Angeles, but also in London, Mexico City and Hong Kong. Technology has placed Americans just seconds away from people halfway around the world, resulting in an Information Age of global players.
Best-selling author, educator and businessman Stedman Graham re-cently published Diversity: Leaders Not Labels—A New Plan for the 21st Century in response to the new demands of this global business world. He writes: “In the past, the business world’s focus has only been on people who could help it improve the bottom line and increase sales. But the type of person who will succeed in this new work environment is one who can also transcend race and build relationships—someone with a spirit of cooperation who is tolerant of others.”
In Diversity: Leaders Not Labels, Graham shows readers how to break out of the box that keeps them from growing to their full potential. The box refers to the external labels like race and ethnicity that many allow to block the pathway to success. Even though his beliefs are not new, they are worth exploring, as many people still remain in boxes. The book is divided into three sections: Diversity in the Twenty-first Century, Programs from the Past and Transformation.
In Section One, Graham focuses on labels in the general sense, the importance of “unlearning” the mistreatment associated with them and escaping from the life boxes created by them. He encourages readers to add to the mosaic, taking pride in their heritage. Those who achieve success in the 21st century, Graham says, will be self-respecting people who “don’t apologize for who they are … people who will continue to grow and develop and who will bring value to themselves and those they represent.”
In Section Two, Programs from the Past, Graham devotes seven chapters to studying diversity. He explores different cultures and their histories to help readers understand that everyone has had challenges. Each chapter includes a discussion about labels, the challenges faced by the ethnic groups and leadership success stories. The goal is to show that while the labels and challenges may differ, the mere fact that we all have them makes us the same. By showcasing in the success stories individuals who have transcended labels to become leaders, Graham encourages readers to develop their own success itinerary, based on the talents and skill they bring to the work force. Hard work, sacrifice, talent, and self-motivation are the tools needed for the future.
Graham uses the last section to focus on the transformation. We do not have to become members of anyone else’s culture to play a key role, he says. Rather, we must maintain and assert our own identities while respecting those of others. “What is most important is breaking through labels and understanding who you are,” writes Graham. “Realize that everyone brings uniqueness, talents and skills that add value to our experiences. …. When you operate from this perspective, you will emerge in the 21st century as a true leader to yourself, to others and to society.”
Diversity: Leaders Not Labels ends with nine steps to transform and thrive. First, moving from a life defined by labels involves checking personal identity: readers should discover and embrace their strengths and interests. Second, readers must create a vision based on their identity. Vision is your ability to look beyond your current circumstances and see the possibilities. Third, develop a travel plan, which includes fact-finding, mentoring and planning day-to-day functions. Fourth, master the rules of the road. The rules are guiding principles like honesty and hard work that characterize the travel plans.
Fifth, step into the outer limits. This challenging step focuses on overcoming fear to recreate a world based on possibilities and resources. Sixth, pilot the seasons. Stick to your core as changes occur. Seventh, build a dream team of people who will relate to what you do and to your core and vision. Eighth, win by decision. Make choices based on who you are, where you want to go and how you want to get there. Finally, ninth commit to your vision. The transformation is not a quick fix, but a lifestyle change.
Stedman Graham’s latest book is a good choice for someone who wants to excel in business and his or her personal life. While the transformation is focused on career advancement, the lessons taught can easily apply to other aspects of life.