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How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You by Kelly McDonald

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CHAPTER 7The Leader's Role: Educating and Setting the Example

How would you handle it if one of the top executives in your company told you they are transitioning to another gender? I'm betting that might really throw you. It's one of the most challenging and difficult diversity issues an organization can face. It would also truly put your “we value diversity” mantra to the test, because you'd have to explain it to your other associates and ensure the news was handled with sensitivity and respect.

This is exactly what a large Southern law firm was faced with recently. Their chief learning officer (CLO) came out as a transgender woman. She'd been living and presenting as a man who then transitioned to living authentically as a woman. That's not a diversity issue that many firms have much experience with. It's different from other aspects of employee diversity—after all, no one asks an Asian person why they are Asian or asks a person who uses a wheelchair why they don't walk. Transgender identity is difficult for many people to understand and grasp. This law firm needed to tell their associates that Bob was becoming Sarah. This firm had a stated commitment to diversity and their handling of this news would be the true test of the respect and inclusion they espoused to their hundreds of associates. While most readers aren't going to face this particular issue, the way it was handled applies to any challenge that leaders face around “leading people not like you.” Here's how they did ...

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