As leaders of our organizations are we held accountable for our actions and comments? Or are we given a pass and a double standard applied even when the actions were not perceived as we thought they would be? Let’s look at the recent furor caused by the CEO of Sam’s Club and her comments. In an interview she mentioned that in a meeting with a team from a supplier that team was comprised of white men which did not fit the Sam’s Club approach to diversity. She said nothing to the team but told the interviewer that she was going to talk with the supplier. Whether intended or not many people perceived her comments to be racist. I think that perhaps there was a better way to make her point.
My concern is that as leaders we cannot engage in behaviors which can lead to wrong perceptions or engage in behaviors that are seen as rude and insensitive. If we do and we get a pass, how do we address the problems created when employees engage in insensitive or rude behaviors? If we want to promote meaningful diversity we must model emotional correctness – treating others with courtesy and respect while promoting opportunities for the best qualified individuals to succeed. We must also do all we can to insure that all our employees are given fair and equal opportunities to succeed. Promoting less qualified individuals over better qualified individuals for the sake of diversity ends up hurting everyone involved in the process so let’s avoid doing that. If and when we engage in questionable conduct we do the right thing. We own up to it and apologize if needed. Accept the consequences and move on after learning from this life lesson.