Building a Diverse Leadership Pipeline: 10 Insights from Business Leaders

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 29, 2023

To address the challenge of creating and nurturing a diverse leadership pipeline, we sought insights from ten professionals, including a Certified Diversity Executive and a Human Resources manager. Their recommendations range from fostering communication for diverse leadership to creating cross-functional leadership circles. Dive into their proven practices for identifying and developing diverse leaders.

  • Foster Communication for Diverse Leadership
  • Leverage Sponsorship 
  • Promote In-House Training and Hiring
  • Implement Reverse Mentoring
  • Target Recruiting Efforts
  • Expand Geographical Recruitment
  • Utilize Performance Reviews and Training Programs
  • Engage with Diverse Industry Professionals
  • Establish a Diverse Think Tank
  • Create Cross-Functional Leadership Circles

Foster Communication for Diverse Leadership

To nurture a diverse talent pipeline for leadership positions, a highly effective practice involves fostering both informal and formal avenues of communication. Regular collaborative dialogues offer an informal platform for discussions that can shift from general topics to the exploration of cultures, backgrounds, and challenges. This not only enables the sharing of ideas and experiences but also sensitizes the team to biases, promoting an inclusive culture that recognizes diverse individuals as leaders.

Additionally, formal brainstorming sessions held on a weekly or bi-weekly basis offer equal opportunities for individuals, regardless of rank, gender, or background, to express their ideas. Observing the value brought by individuals from distinct cultures helps break down stereotypes and empowers them to step forward. It also enables teams to dispel biases and stereotypes, foster growth, and cultivate an inclusive culture that motivates diverse individuals to aspire for leadership roles.

Chaitanya Vilekar, Associate Consultant, NamanHR

Leverage Sponsorship

Sponsorship is a potent tool for developing diverse leaders. It goes beyond the advice and guidance of mentorship, involving influential figures advocating for their protégés’ growth in an organization. 

Sponsors leverage their credibility to create opportunities and promote their protégés’ accomplishments. They play a critical role in fostering diversity by helping underrepresented groups overcome systemic obstacles. This visibility and the opportunities it brings position these individuals favorably for leadership roles. 

Sponsorship also aids organizations by ensuring talent is acknowledged and developed, irrespective of background or identity, leading to a diversified and inclusive leadership pipeline. Thus, sponsorship not only nurtures a supportive environment for diverse talents but is also instrumental in their career advancement and leadership cultivation.

Vivian Acquah, CDE®, Certified Diversity Executive, Amplify DEI

Promote In-House Training and Hiring

Often, the best talent pool is right under your nose. At Ling, we identify potential leaders and include them in our Growth Leadership Meetings. These meetings are led by our CGO, who teaches leadership qualities, shares experiences, and provides mentorship on how to navigate actual situations in the workplace. Recently, one of our upper management team members left the company, and we drew from our Growth Leadership pool to replace her.

Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager, Ling App

Implement Reverse Mentoring

In this approach, younger, diverse team members mentor senior leadership. Six months ago, a young employee from a minority background informed our top executive about her experiences with microaggressions. 

This conversation reshaped the executive’s understanding, leading to impactful policy adjustments for a more inclusive environment. Through reverse mentoring, companies can identify blind spots in their culture and support the growth of diverse talent. It is essential for any company that wants to achieve real inclusion.

Fred Winchar, Founder, Certified HR Professional, MaxCash

Target Recruiting Efforts

I believe that creating and nurturing a pipeline of diverse talent for leadership positions is crucial for promoting inclusivity and driving innovation within the company. 

One effective practice we have implemented is actively seeking diverse candidates through targeted recruiting efforts. This includes posting job openings on platforms that cater to diverse candidates and partnering with our employees who promote diversity and inclusion.

Mike Podesto, Founder and CEO, Find My Profession

Expand Geographical Recruitment

I often help companies develop a talent pipeline that ensures diversity. The first step is always expanding the net geographically. Sourcing diverse leaders requires looking in places you might have previously ignored. 

One way to accomplish this is by simply making the role remote, allowing you to hire from a wide variety of demographic communities.

Looking outside your locality to fill an in-person position is a little more difficult. You’re going to need to revisit your benefits package. Attractive extras often make the difference for candidates considering moving, and a relocation stipend is absolutely necessary if you want to lure in top talent.

Linn Atiyeh, CEO, Bemana

Utilize Performance Reviews and Training Programs

We have an annual performance review where we identify employees who are ready to take on a leadership role in the company. We have set a rigorous matrix to properly identify potential leaders in the company, and once they are identified, they undergo several leadership training and development programs. 

They also sign up for mentorship programs to learn how to become the best leader they can be. Once done, they lead a small team first before they transition into leading a bigger team. So far, this has been proven effective in nurturing leaders in the company.

Omer Lewinsohn, General Manager, Marketing Expert, Management.org

Engage with Diverse Industry Professionals

There’s no shortcut to this that I know of—the best way I know to cultivate a diverse pipeline is to actively engage with a diverse array of candidates and professionals within your industry. This starts by expanding where you go to connect with talent. 

Find professional organizations dedicated to underrepresented groups in your industry and make a point of attending their events and engaging with those communities. Take the same steps with your online professional networks. If most of your contacts on LinkedIn look like you, that’s a sign you’re only engaging with a narrow segment of your industry. 

Expanding to follow a more diverse group of industry leaders will give you more connections with people outside of your demographic segment, and that means more diverse leadership candidates to reach out to when you’re ready to hire.

Archie Payne, President, CalTek Staffing

Establish a Diverse Think Tank

One of our standout strategies as a company has been the ‘Diverse Think Tank.’ Every quarter, we gather a multifaceted group of employees from all corners of our organization, including different departments, backgrounds, and ranks. Their mission? To address a pressing business challenge. 

This approach does more than just champion diverse thinking. It spotlights emerging leaders in these dynamic teams. The results have been eye-opening. Different backgrounds have ushered in groundbreaking solutions. In fact, many of our present leaders first made their mark in these very think tanks.

Peter Fischer, CEO, LV Casino

Create Cross-Functional Leadership Circles

In our organization, we took a proactive approach called “Leadership Circles.” These are small, cross-functional groups deliberately composed of diverse team members from different levels and departments. Each circle has a blend of junior staff, mid-level managers, and senior execs.

Now, why does this work? For starters, it creates a space where emerging talent can directly interact with current leaders, fostering mentorship and shared learning. Second, it exposes senior management to the hidden gems in the company—those employees who might not have a prominent stage but have a lot to offer.

The practice’s real beauty lies in its organic nature. It’s not a formal, rigid training program but a fluid, evolving space. Employees learn about leadership by practicing it—leading discussions, handling projects, and voicing opinions in a safe, supportive environment.

Vikrant Shaurya, CEO, Authors On Mission

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By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Greg Grzesiak is an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and Columnist at Grit Daily. As CEO of Grzesiak Growth LLC, Greg dedicates his time to helping CEOs influencers and entrepreneurs make the appearances that will grow their following in their reach globally. Over the years he has built strong partnerships with high profile educators and influencers in Youtube and traditional finance space. Greg is a University of Florida graduate with years of experience in marketing and journalism.

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