How Embracing Diversity Facilitates Leadership Development - Nina Godiwalla

In Chapter 17 of 22 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, author Nina Godiwalla answers "What Role Does Diversity Play in Shaping Your Own Leadership Style?"  Godiwalla shares stories about how learning to appreciate different perspectives and skill sets when hiring benefits her development.  Over time, she applies this approach in many parts of her life, including in an entrepreneurial venture.  Godiwalla is the author of "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street". She is also a public speaker on workplace diversity and founder and CEO of Mindworks, where she teaches mind-based stress reduction techniques to help organizations improve employee wellbeing.  Godiwalla holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, an MA in Creative Writing from Dartmouth University and her BBA from the University of Texas at Austin. 


Erik Michielsen:  What role does diversity play in shaping your own leadership style?

Nina Godiwalla:  So one of the things I remember when I use to hire, I used to look for people that were like me, that I could connect to and it’s a natural thing that we do.  We talk to people and when they are very similar to us like, “Oh, I like you.”  You know you think along the way I think and I remember I had a manager who said to me – I said you know I love this person, we got along, we had a great conversation and she said to me, “But does she really compliment you?”  And I hadn’t thought about that.  I hadn’t – it was like “Does that person need to compliment me?  I just like them, I mean does it matter?”  She seems like she can do the job and she seems like she’s like me and I think it’s a tendency we have is we hang around people that are similar to us.  We like people that are – we have commonalities with and I think you have to step back a little bit when you’re trying to surround yourself with people. 

It is surrounding yourself with people that have kind of the values and beliefs that you have to some extent but it’s also understanding that you’re going to learn a lot from people that have different perspectives.  So for me, I have to stand back a little bit and think of, I mean it’s not diversity in terms of skin color or just gender; the diversity of mindset too is critical.  So I feel like I’ve as I’m working through and doing a lot of the entrepreneurial work that I’m doing, I need to step back and find people that are a little bit different. 

One example is I have MindWorks which is my stress management business and I – I'm actually now partnering with people and I was a little mixed at first because I’m used to doing it where I go in and I can do whatever I want.  I can go in and teach any sort of course with my own – only what I think and what I loved is I started partnering with people that have kind of different, they go about it different ways and they do it different ways and initially I thought, “Wait, I don’t know if I want to do that because they’re going to do something different.”  And what if that’s not something I agree with and the reality is, is I needed to step back from that and say, “That’s even better.” That’s going to be great that they’re going to be able to bring in a different perspective and some people are going to be able to relate a little bit better to what they’re saying and some people might relate to what I’m saying and then the reality is I’m going to learn something along the way in that process.  So it’s always thinking about the, you know, we can always learn something new from somebody.