Book Reviews

Managing Diversity: The Courage to Lead

by Elsie Y. Cross

Reviewed by Rene Townsend
Lecturer, California State University, San Marcos, Calif.

Be prepared to be challenged, to face your personal beliefs about prejudice, oppression, equity and fairness and examine your ideas about what it takes to lead a diverse organization. Managing Diversity: The Courage to Lead, by Elsie Y. Cross, founder and president of an organizational development consulting firm, is a deeply moving book.

While based largely on her experiences with businesses and corporations, the book has significance for those serious about effectively leading diverse schools and districts. Cross offers insight into creating awareness, providing needed education, reaching understanding and taking action.

Her model, known as Managing Diversity Intervention, is based on ideas she developed through a study of history, the life experiences of thousands of women and people of color and through her work with companies. Cross says that unless we understand how discrimination and oppression are woven into the fabric of organizations, lasting change is not possible. This may make us wince, but the truth resonates.

Although power in this country continues to reside predominately with white men, Cross suggests white men may be the best hope for creating change. As with all effective change, courageous leadership from the top and long-term commitment is essential with guidance from highly trained facilitators.

We must move beyond changing individual hearts and create deep systems change. This requires we study the history of discrimination and oppression, how organizations and systems work, competence and experience in how adults learn and personal understanding of differences in race, gender, sexual orientation and ability. Cross shows how demanding this work is but also how necessary.

(Managing Diversity: The Courage to Lead, by Elsie Y. Cross, Quorum Books, Westport, Conn., 250 pp. with index, $59.95 hardcover. Available from