Inside Out

Writing about her feminist upbringing in her October 2 issue Newsweek column, writer Anna Quindlen notes that “ … the battle was really against waste, the waste of talent, the waste to society, the waste of women who had certain gifts and goals and had to suppress both.”

Anyone who is part of an organization doesn’t need proof that talent among the ranks is wasted everyday, but for those who need proof, one only needs to look at the burgeoning amount of research being released by the Gallup organization’s studies on employee engagement.

But a more productive engagement of individual talents and perspectives might be on the horizon albeit from a source some will find difficult to accept. In his new book, The G Quotient, Kirk Snyder addresses why gay executives are excelling as leaders. Though I’m not 100 percent convinced of his research methodology, I find it hard to argue with his finding that gay executives are overwhelmingly committed to the principle of inclusion, one of seven he finds as a fundamental source of their leadership success. Snyder says, “ … I found that as a principle of leadership, inclusion is less about diversity and much more about equality.”

I have never really given much thought to the possibility that my commitment to inclusion and equality might stem at least in part to being a gay male. I think it is equally plausible that the many men and women I would count as my role models influenced my adoption of them as core values. But when reading the various stories about how gay executives walk the talk of inclusion, I couldn’t help but see it as a fairly inherent part of our identity because of the fact that we are gay.

Like Quindlen’s observation, I don’t know that the commitment is one stemming from a grand moral position. I haven’t experienced near the pain and personal suffering that only a decade or so ago would have been commonplace. But I have been in situations where being gay kept others from including me in their efforts, engaging my passions, and denied me the opportunity to act on things I cared about. And in almost every case, those passions did not die, nor did my desires dissipate. I simply took them elsewhere and channeled them to other efforts.

So whether you’ve experienced much exclusion or not, you can certainly understand that every minute of every day in almost every organization someone’s talents are not being leveraged. Someone is not allowed to be the person she has the capability and the desire to become. And that’s criminal waste. Snyder’s research suggests that gay executives might be more predisposed to do something about it. I can only hope this is one issue for which every leader is willing to be a straight ally.

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