This is an excerpt from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Sport by Ellen J. Staurowsky & Algerian Hart.
By Ketra L. Armstrong
It’s easy to get duped into thinking that the only important moments of purpose congruence are the big ones, those that directly affect the course of project, produce, service, or company’s overall goodwill. . . . But day-to-day, moment to moment, it is the small ways we lead and operate that show who we are, what we believe, and how we support our purpose. . . . it is in these moments that a culture is shaped.
Izzo & Vanderwielen, 2018, p. 77
Thomas and Ely (1996) long contended that there is a distinct way to unleash the power and benefits of DEI in a workplace. I contend that the distinction lies in leadership. Leaders must be at the fore of the metamorphic changes required to integrate DEI within sport organizations. Pless and Maak (2004) affirmed that leadership for DEI is a social process and a relational and interactive task. Leaders must be inspirational and aspirational in their approach. The type of leadership employed to ensure DEI in sport organizations will play a vital role in its success.
Two broad classifications of leadership are transactional and transformation. Transactional leadership focuses on the exchanges (such as rewards and punishments, and informational, personal, physical, and financial resources) that occur between the leaders and their followers (Lussier & Kimball, 2014; Northouse, 2004). Transformational leadership refers to the process whereby a leader engages with members of the organization and creates connections that inspire and raise the level of motivation and morale among the leader and the followers (Northouse, 2004). Moreover, transformational leadership is a process defined by personable, affective, and visionary leadership. It affects individuals at a deeper and more emotional, spiritual, and value-laded level (Lussier & Kimball, 2014; Northouse, 2004).
Transformational leaders are genuinely concerned with developing their followers to perform to their fullest potential. Northouse (2004) identified four factors defining transformational leadership:
- Charisma or idealized influence (a quality that makes individuals want to emulate and follow them)
- Inspirational motivation (their high expectations and symbolic appeal that inspires and motivates the commitment and high achievement among their followers)
- Intellectual stimulation (their encouragement of followers to be creative and innovative)
- Individualized consideration (the creation of organizational climates that support the needs of the followers)
Compared to transactional leadership, transformational leadership has resulted in higher aspirations, greater effort, performance beyond expectation, lower turnover and absence, and greater job satisfaction (Lussier & Kimball, 2014; Northouse, 2004). Moreover, transformational leaders empower followers and nurture them through change and raise the consciousness of their followers to transcend their own self-interests for the sake of others and for the good of the group or organization (Northouse, 2004).
Northouse (2004) also noted that transformational leaders are “social architects. . . . They make clear the emerging values and norms of the organization. They involve themselves in the culture of the organization and help shape its meaning” (p. 183). Furthermore, transformative leadership may also lead to transformative learning, which includes
- altered frames of reference,
- critical reflection and dialogue,
- new understandings, and
- taking action (Mezirow, 1997).
Due to their individualized consideration of the needs of their followers, transformational leaders are also more likely to exhibit the cultural competencies (the cultural intelligence inventory—knowledge, skills, attitude, agility, sensitivity, and humility to respond in culturally appropriate ways) necessary to promote cultural equity and inclusion.
The overarching goals of celebrating human differences, treating individuals fairly and justly, and fostering a collective sense of belonging make DEI a transformative process that requires transformative learning. While various approaches to leadership may be effective in creating and ensuring a vision of DEI, it is my contention that transformational leadership holds the highest potential for success. Traits of transformational leaders are the traits that are most likely to facilitate trust, connectedness, engagement, and commitment necessary for DEI success within sport organizations.