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Recognizing Excellence in Diversity

January 13, 2015

By: Seth Rivera, Senior Associate Counsel, Darden Restaurants

Recognizing Excellence in Diversity

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Recently, individuals across our company were selected to participate in a variety of development opportunities offered by the Executive Leadership Council (ELC) Institute as part of Darden's commitment to diversity and development. The ELC is the premier organization dedicated to the development of African-American leaders that Darden is proud to have been partnering with for over a decade. This is the third in a three-part series recapping the recent ELC leadership development programs.

“Going All In – Insight – Innovation – Inspiration.” This was the theme of the ELC Foundation’s 2014 Recognition Gala.  After a day and a half of introspective and critical self-evaluation during the Mid-Level Manager’s Symposium, attendees gathered to celebrate the achievements of global executives, thought leaders and academics supporting diversity and inclusion in corporate America.

Before proceeding with the festivities of the evening, Ms. Carla Harris, Vice Chair of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley and ELC Chair, addressed the more than 800 attendees.  Her message was an eloquent and energizing refresher on the business case for diversity as the essential element to maintaining a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage.

Ms. Harris submitted that it takes insight to anticipate the ever-changing competitive landscape.  It takes insight to make investments in new ideas and new processes, and it is through that insight that you come to the realization that the most important competitive dynamic every organization today is faced with is innovation.  Innovation is the key to obtaining and maintaining an organization’s leadership status.  And, it is this need for innovation that demands diversity. 

Ms. Harris insisted that innovation requires a variety of different ideas.  With enough different ideas, eventually you get to the one that will allow you to innovate.  However, in order to generate a variety of different ideas, you need a variety of different perspectives.  In order to obtain a variety of different perspectives, you need a lot of different experiences.  Those “different” experiences, Ms. Harris concluded, can only come from people who are… different.  That is the business case for diversity and it makes so much sense.

As I reflect on my experiences during those two days and the people I shared them with, I was amazed and encouraged by the sheer number of talented and diverse leaders and professionals attending and contributing to this conversation.  At the same time, I realized that there is more work to be done.  The conversation cannot end with those of us who attended.  The audience needs to continue to be expanded.  The experience and the personal bonds made should serve as personal inspiration to accept the challenge, to use our unique experiences and insights, to innovate new ways of thinking and leading, and to inspire future diverse leaders with the courage to change the status quo. 

By Seth Rivera, Senior Associate Counsel, Darden Restaurants

Previous ELC Recaps
Part 1: Strengthening the Pipeline
Part 2: Diversity at Its Best

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