Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Diversity and Cultural Fit

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Authors and leadership speakers, Bob and Gregg Vanourek, use a picture of a kitten and a chick to express the importance of diversity in organizational culture.

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Some leaders make a case for diversity; others call for “cultural fit,” implying to some that organizations should hire those who are the “same” as those already in the organization. Are these views compatible?

Our good friend and leadership colleague, Bob Whipple (a.k.a. The Trust Ambassador), wrote an excellent blog, Challenge “Samers,” from which we excerpt below:

I often hear a phrase coming from the lips of hiring managers that makes me cringe. “We want to hire someone who will fit into our group.”  …  I think this is a big mistake.

It is often the maverick, or even the outcast among a group of people, who comes up with the genius solutions to problems, or creates entirely new streams of income. When we seek to have everyone “fit in,” we lose the potential for diversity of thought that is a major part of the creative process. …

Often, it was the minority representation that… would point out when we slipped into a dangerous “group think” or “monoculture” mentality. …

Obviously, it is a good idea to avoid putting a person on the team who is a total misfit, is disruptive, or always brings up a contrary point of view creating dissent.  Instead, try to foster a mixture of ideas and points of view by following these actions:

  1. … seek to place people with different style patterns.
  2. … try to determine the level of independent thinking while also determining an appropriate level of teamwork.
  3. … put high value on skills that will add new dimensions to the existing team …
  4. … seek to increase the variety of the team where possible.
  5. Seek to make strategic moves of people from one team to another that will add diversity of thought to both groups.
  6. Continually reinforce the idea that we can gain our greatest strength from diversity.

Building a strong team means not going the comfortable route where we hire and place people just like us.  That is a formula for mediocrity.

We agree with Bob Whipple. Organizational culture is strengthened greatly by diversity, and teams improve when they have complementary skills and people with different perspectives who challenge the existing processes and conventional approaches.

Cultural fit and diversity are not incompatible. Hiring for cultural fit must not become confused or misused as hiring people who are all alike. For example, managers at Zappos can screen job candidates, not just for skills and experience, but also fit with its famous 10 Core Values and still end up with a diverse team, particularly if its managers are wise and actively seek such diversity. Mayo Clinic managers can recruit an exceptionally diverse team while also ensuring that they fit with the organizations sacrosanct Mission and Values.

Diversity on the team is essential, and leaders are wise to protect the “mavericks”—those individuals who are quirky and don’t fit in with the general population—as long as they are committed to the shared purpose, values, and vision of the organization. As with others, they are expected to become stewards of the organization’s culture and have an irrevocable license to lead by the shared values.

Core Concept: Hire for cultural fit, those who are committed to your organization’s shared purpose, values, and vision, while seeking diversity among your team.


Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of and speakers on Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, winner of the 2013 International Book Awards (Business: General). Twitter: @TripleCrownLead, @BobVanourek, @GVanourek

Bob Whipple is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Contact Bob at,, @RWhipple

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