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Creating the Message for Change—What We Can Learn from the Boy Scouts of America

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In The Washington Post article “How the Boy Scouts changed their stance on gay leaders,” Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, said the organization’s survival depended on it becoming more open and inclusive of diversity in male leaders. Gates’ statement made an impact; as of Monday, July 13, “the Boy Scouts announced that its executive committee had unanimously adopted a resolution that… would end the national ban on openly gay volunteer leaders.”

If an institution that’s as long standing as the Boy Scouts of America, with age-old policies against the inclusion of diversity, can change and become inclusive of multiple types of sexual orientation, then that sets the bar high for other organizations. For many of us, we’re saying, “It’s about time!” However, we know how difficult it is to make change happen, and sometimes being inclusive isn’t common sense.

That’s why inclusive leaders need to be incredibly careful with their messaging when trying to bring about change to their businesses.

It isn’t enough for a business leader to say that all employees need to be inclusive of different races, sexual orientations and genders because it’s “the right thing to do.” Though we think being inclusive is the right thing morally, it’s not enough to sell people on it. As leaders, we have to respect that what we think is the right thing, might be thewrong thing for employees with different religious beliefs or life experiences.  

This is why Gates’ message was so effective. He didn’t make a call to be inclusive of gay Boy Scout leaders because it was the right thing to do. Instead, “his case for change was based on the challenges that he expected the organization would face if it didn’t adjust its ways.” Gates knew that using pathos to appeal to the audience’s moral compass wasn’t going to be good enough. In order to bring about change, he had to make it clear that, if they didn’t adapt to the times we’re in, surely the organization would crumble sooner or later.

In other words, changing policies to be inclusive of gay male leaders is a good business move for the survival of a huge organization. Inclusion doesn’t always have to be the right thing morally (though it’s definitely a plus!), but it’s always the best thing for the survival and growth of our organizations and companies.

Don’t waste another minute—be more inclusive of diversity in your office!

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