Happy New Year!

Today I came across a specialized leadership development program for LGBT executives. It’s offered at Stanford, and it ain’t cheap, so I’m thinking it’s not a fly-by-night kind of thing. But, it did get me thinking about the wisdom of leading by identity.

If nothing else, leaders need to be authentic. I never bought into the idea that women needed to be more like men (whatever that means) in order to be effective executives. Rather, leadership effectiveness is a combination of desire and developed talent, regardless of (fill in the demographic variable).

White men have had their own networking group since the beginning of the industrial age, so I don’t see specific groups for LGBT, women, Asian, etc executives as any sort of reverse discrimination. There’s great comfort and learning to be had from sharing with those who have had similar experiences to you. And just because Tim Cook of Apple came out doesn’t mean that challenges facing LGBT executives have disappeared any more than President Obama’s election eliminated racism in the U.S.

But, I would caution against leaders overly “branding” themselves in a category other than that of their organization. It is almost like when you hear someone in your organization refer to “you” rather than “us” when describing an issue. Aren’t we all in this together?

I support leaders developing their skills where they can and universities making extra money. But, consider this: Wouldn’t there be more benefit of these programs if the attendees were 50% LGBT and 50% straight? I’d like to hear your thoughts about this, or similar programs.

For more information on leadership development, please contact Warren Bobrow.