Leadership and Diversity
Allow us to introduce to you The 16 Percent’s newest blogger—SGR’s own Marlie Eyre. Marlie joined SGR in February 2015, as a Member Collaboration Coordinator. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations, Indonesian Language, and Politics as well as a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and Trade. Her focus of study has been on government and governance both at a local and an international level. Marlie has traveled to more than twenty countries both as part of her studies, to pursue various work opportunities, and to broaden her understanding of local governments, policies, and cultural understanding. Prior to joining SGR, Marlie worked with various government and non-government organizations including an internship with U.K. Trade and Investment based in Melbourne Australia, Scalabrini Refugee Center in Cape Town, South Africa, and for the previous four years. has been working with a consulting company based in Montreal, Canada. Marlie is also fluent in Indonesian.
The demographic changes that America is experiencing currently is and will continue to be one of the most pressing topics in leadership circles. The demographics are shifting, this cannot be denied. But what does this mean for public service? What does this mean for those in leadership positions in public service? In today’s blog, we will explore why it is so important to be informed about demographic shifts and how this will make us more successful in our jobs and the services we provide.
The San Antonio Spurs team is one of the most culturally diverse professional sports teams in the USA, not to mention one of the most successful NBA teams in recent times. Last year an action taken by head coach Gregg Popovich demonstrated one of the most profound examples of leadership and how important it is to recognize diversity I have ever seen. The San Antonio Spurs have players in their line-up from all across the world. One of these players is Patty Mills, a young indigenous man from Australia. Mills’ father is an Indigenous Torres Strait Islander and his mother is an Indigenous South Australian. He is the first Aboriginal Australian to play in the NBA and carries the pride of the entire Australian nation on his shoulders.
On June 3rd, right before the Spurs were about to begin their preparations to come head to head with the Miami Heat for the championship, Gregg Popovich walked into the locker room and asked his players “do you know what today is?” Popovich then proceeded to flash an image of an older indigenous Australian gentleman up on the projector screen. Mills and fellow Aussie and team mate, Aron Baynes knew right away what he was referring to. The photo was of a gentleman named Eddie Mabo. Gregg Popovich proceeded to explain to his team the importance of June 3rd, Eddie Mabo Day, in Australia. Indeed this day, “Mabo Day”, is an important date on the calendar for all Indigenous Australians and Torres Straight Islanders, as it marks the day the Australian Government recognized Indigenous land rights. Mills was overwhelmed and filled with emotion by this action. Mills mother and father were in town at the time to watch their son play in the finals against Miami Heat and heard about what happened in the locker room. They were said to be just as taken aback by this extraordinary act of recognition and leadership.
The fact that Gregg Popovich felt it important enough to take time out from NBA finals preparation to recognize and educate his players on this topic demonstrates the enormous amount of respect he has for his players and their diversity. On a team that has more international players than domestic ones, he felt it was vital to recognize diversity to build his team and strengthen the relationships and respect between his players. This was not a stand-alone act by Popovich. He has done this on more than one occasion for others on the Spurs team. Popovich is a leader. He is a coach. What he did for Patrick Mills, as a leader, is truly inspiring.
So what can we learn from this extraordinary demonstration of celebrating cultural diversity from a leadership perspective? Diversity is special. It is a thing to be celebrated. It breaks down barriers in the most incredible ways. It reduces frustration and improves communication. It builds relationships that, as leaders and service providers, we cannot have success without. In our communities, knowing who we serve and not just recognizing diversity but embracing it, will lead to greater success and understanding.