For nearly a decade, I’ve had a front row seat to the harsh realities that run deep within organizations representing the most respected brands in the world. Organizations need to strengthen their leadership teams in order to evolve the business models that are being influenced by two time-sensitive success factors:

1) the speed of business that demands a new leadership mindset that welcomes change in order to evolve and seize opportunities previously unseen; and

2) the realization that it’s no longer about the business defining the individual (employees), but much more about the individual defining the business. In the United States, these success factors are being strongly influenced by the dynamics associated with the Cultural Demographic Shift™.

These two factors are quickly exposing the lack of 21st century leadership competencies that are widening performance and business opportunity gaps and revealing the truth behind what is making brands vulnerable as they compete in the marketplace. Organizations must adopt new ways of thinking and respect the ideas and ideals of the individual to embrace the opportunities these success factors can create as a thought leadership platform. They cannot create a distinct competitive advantage for their employees, customers and their brands if they continue to ignore them by adopting a traditional compliance approach that is rapidly elevating their risk profiles.

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These are deep rooted concerns that have led many organizations to start encouraging their employees to freely speak-up, be bold and engage in courageous conversations. While these are well- intentioned efforts, they can only be successfully implemented within a workplace culture that can authentically create a safe environment to speak-up – where leadership is open-minded enough to allow their employees to influence their decisions and where fresh perspectives are welcomed and acted upon.

It requires an organization to understand the true meaning of diversity of thought and the strategic implications of such transparent conversations. It demands leaders to be more vulnerable and wise enough to accept that they don’t have all the answers.

Organizations must stop refreshing old initiatives and creating new ones to solve real problems that require well-thought out strategies for change in order to evolve.

Because without strategy, change is merely substitution, not evolution.

Leaders must turn the spotlight of accountability on themselves. They must assume the responsibility to invest in their employees whose capabilities and perspectives are being lost amidst the speed of change and organizational identity-crisis. Leaders must shift their mindset about how we lead employees from cost-centers to profit-centers.

But most of all, leaders must start leading again.

Leadership is more difficult than ever before because it’s become less about the business defining the individual and much more about the individual defining the business. This paradigm shift requires leaders to adopt a new leadership mindset – and with their employees, they must create new templates for success for the business to evolve. Individual employees that touch the business every day should be able to influence how the business operates – especially those individuals representing the Cultural Demographic Shift, whose different perspectives represent the new workplace and marketplace. Instead, their thinking remains dormant and they are not given the platform to influence the evolution of their department, their business and the organization’s brand.

Employees are the ones that intimately understand the subtle nuances and requirements of the business. Doing more with less, they see the opportunity gaps and have the intellectual capital to recommend new templates for success. When leaders ignore this new reality, it becomes impossible to maximize the full potential of the organization and employees they serve. This is what leaders ultimately get paid to do – and they are not doing enough of it. And this is why business and performance opportunity gaps unknowingly widen rather than close.

For example, the growing Hispanic employee population in the workplace is only performing at 40% of their full potential. Based on an assessment conducted by my organization, 71% of Fortune 500 leaders are only “sometimes” vulnerable with their employees and 69% of diverse employees only “sometimes” share the unique ways their cultural values influence how they think. Most leaders don’t seem to understand their responsibility and perhaps this explains why employees are losing ground and it’s becoming more difficult for the organization to win.

Use this Diversity of Thought assessment and this article wisely. Share it with your executive team, their leaders and all of your employees. Talk about it openly and strategically. Discuss how these issues align directly to your business model and ability to be both successful and significant. Be vulnerable so that everyone genuinely believes you are listening and paying more attention.