When the way to Hell is paved with good intentions…


Didier Marlier

January 13, 2023

From Disruption to Engagement

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… and the Highway Patrol becomes an active part of the problem…

On my left sits Ji-Yong Kim. He has 88 subordinates at his disposal, to get the best done. Far from denying or tolerating differences between them, he encourages them! He is delighted when all of them react differently, have different bodies, different colours even! He is not a bit interested in Diversity! For him, differences exist, they are innumerate and rather than seeking to “equalise and deny them”, he considers his job to include everyone’s best differences into a whole symphony. To him, Inclusion matters more than Diversity or Equality. For him, differences are a blessing, something to be preserved and played with.

On my right is Ji-Yong Kim. He has worked hard at making all of his 88 subordinates equal. He has worked so hard at removing differences, that they all sound the same now. No mistake, no dissonance, no difference… A perfect Equality (even if some are whiter or darker than other but, don’t mention this politically incorrect fact, please!)

I’d be surprised if you haven’t seen this before, as I use this a lot. It is a plea to look for our differences and orchestrate them into a vibrant serenade. This is how I see, search for and provoke differences. I now lead a vibrant Community of consultants, where one is a Ballet dancer and choreographer, another was a French Navy officer, another is a Conductor and wrote three operas, another is a journalist, another worked for the Special Forces, another was the head of R&D for a large multinational, another worked for a retirement agency, another was CIO of a large multinational, another worked with entrepreneurs in Africa and is part of Stanford Exec Edu, another in Olympic Silver Medallist in ice hockey etc.

Sadly, the more stories I hear, the more I fear that “Diversity Zealots” are the first responsible for “Trumpian” virulent, vulgar, homophobic, misogynistic, racist and polarising rants, which divide nations, build walls and hatred between their people and justify the unacceptable.

When Diversity is linked only to one or two criteria (often gender and race) it is bound to create what it tries to prevent: crass misogyny and undefendable racism. Diversity is composed of so many other criteria! I remember reading a study, some four years ago, claiming that the biggest, most unfair and debilitating divider between humans wasn’t race, gender, religion etc. but… digital access and capabilities!

Are we on the right track when focusing on what separates us (Diversity focus) instead of using our leadership skills to value our differences and work at creating a symphony of respect, curiosity and energy to work with people different from us, and from a wider perspective than restricted to the obvious, gender or race? Do we seriously believe that imposing quotas, biasing recruitment of certain typologies, or worse, as I have recently heard, setting a sort of medieval Inquisition type of tribunal, fed by anonymous denunciation, will create Diversity, Inclusion and Equality?

Diversity is just a statistical result. But, forcing a result without preparing the culture for it, will only direct us towards polarisation, trivialisation, ridicule and negative criticism.

Preparing the organisation’s culture, helping people understand why Diversity is a must and highly desirable, supporting leaders in understanding how to include different talents is far more promising, in my experience.

Whereas Diversity speaks to Logos (understanding why it is important and why ignoring it will lead to disaster), Equality sits in the Realm of Values and Emotions (Pathos), Inclusion clearly belongs to the World of Behaviours (Ethos).

Peter Drucker is quoted to have warned us that “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast!” In other terms, Diversity will fail when imposed, forced and preached the way it is by many “pay-back time zealots”… Since, as Hay and Gallup found out, 70% of organisations’ culture comes from the leaders behaviours, have them work and understand, behave in an inclusive way! A client of mine, once totally lost their credibility with me: they were mentioning that our partners’ list showed more men than women and more whites than non-whites (far easier to spot than sexual preferences, backgrounds, traumas, beliefs, political opinions etc.) When I explained the sort of people we were, in terms of our past lives, background and experience, they seemed a bit lost. When I explained that one of us, bright, sharp and witty, with a fairly unusual background, would benefit from joining a corporate environment, my client’s response was “Didier, it is impossible to hire People like that!” I simply smiled and asked that person never, ever again to tell me anything about Diversity. Their speech was passionate but their behaviour stank and betrayed the fact they did not live the Diversity speech… “People like that!

Focus on Inclusion! Have your leaders learn how to listen, seek to understand diverse opinions, accept to be proven wrong, to ask for and gracefully receive feedback. Create a culture of Inclusion, based on values of Equality and Diversity will emerge. Don’t create Diversity laws and Tribunals… you will fail!

Prior to letting you go, I can’t resist the mischievous pleasure of sharing with you the clip, one of you just sent me to illustrate this all. Enjoy, It is very recent (2023!)

Enjoy your courageous, determined and inclusive Leadership Journey!


  1. Steve Prumo

    Hi Didier and thank you for such an important topic. I was an early advocate for Diversity and Inclusion nearly 13 years ago as we were integrating this into our company’s culture, which was generally aliened with DF&I thinking. We hired a fantastic teacher, and as Director of D&I, she brought great insight into our company. She clearly understood and taught us that diversity of thought is the key to bringing richness to conversations. We recognized that different backgrounds, experiences, social economic level, race, etc. contributed to different points of view and thought. This was the key … not cosmetic diversity. The other thing she drove home was that inclusion was the key, for diversity of thought without inclusion, would lead to a poor outcome.
    It too saddens me to see such a great initiative being hijacked by CEOs that only want to be able to “check the box”, or by consultants that view D&I as there next product to sell, or worse, by charlatans that use D&I as a means only to further enrich their pockets. Thanks again Didier for raising this important topic .

    • Didier Marlier

      Thank you, dear Steve… Your story and recollection move me. Indeed, as Harvard Marketing Guru, Philip Kotler, used to say, “MArketing is too important to be left to marketeers”, D&I is too fundamental to be left to “Diversity Zealots” who are so detrimental to the cause they seek to defend. Thank you very much!

  2. Steve Prumo

    Correction: D&I not DF&I


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