Leadership Academy

Sense in otherness

Posted by: Ruth Hunt - Posted on:

At Stonewall, we’re of the strong view that people perform better when they can be themselves, and over 600 organisations who work with us agree.

Ruth 2013
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall


Equality and diversity can sometimes feel like an add on to the day job; something that has to be remembered, with a degree of trepidation.



We’re a nation where all sorts of industries are experiencing something of a crisis of values. This isn’t something that’s just affecting the banking industry, but all sorts of institutions, including the NHS. Monolithic approaches to problems are no longer providing solutions. The NHS needs to have a range of voices and a range of solutions to enable constant improvement. That is what equality and diversity is really about. It’s hard for leaders to sometimes hear a different voice, or an opinion that differs from our own. We’re busy people. We’ve reached the conclusions we’ve reached because we are leaders and are expected to make difficult decisions and choices.


The best leaders, however, surround themselves with people who can express a different view. This isn’t about a Benetton advert of diversity. Having a board where half are women, some are not white, and you think one is gay doesn’t guarantee a diverse way of thinking. If everybody feels obliged to nod along, you might as well have a board who thinks, acts and looks like you.


Instead, good leaders find ways to enable people to express different views. They encourage it, praise it when it happens, and show how they use the information they receive. Leaders might continue along a decided path despite the additional input but they value the differing views.


Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are in a unique position to bring differing views. The majority of LGB and trans people too, will have, at some stage, examined their own values and their own choices and made a decision about how to act on them. They’ve taken risks to be true to themselves even if that’s meant possibly losing the support of parents, friends, their church or mosque, or even their employer. Being true to themselves, and their values, being able to be themselves, is more important than going along with what’s expected.


This puts LGB people in a unique position to support leaders who are thinking about how to change the way they work, and this perspective is useful to all those who have had to go against the grain. We’ve all felt an acute sense of otherness at some time in our life. Maybe it’s because we wore the wrong trainers – we probably changed our trainers or stopped wearing the old ones. Maybe it’s because we were good at maths when all the others were good at football. We adjust ourselves to feel less other but those who are LGBT, or BME, or disabled, or carers, or women, or have a faith can’t hide their otherness. They must own it instead.


And that puts them in a unique position to help you navigate a change in culture. Mine this resource. It’s useful.

1 reply on “Sense in otherness”

  • Ruth, I really appreciated your words. Examining your own values and choices is a hard path to take. But it does bring a really useful kind of strength and resilience. And you are very right about real diversity – not just counting the gender and lgbt balance.

    Mary E Black

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