1/16/17 | Even an employee of United Airlines can’t avoid the occasional flight delay caused by Mother Nature! Greg Jones, Chief Diversity Officer – United Airlines, was a tad late for his Distinguished Visiting Professor lecture due to weather issues in Chicago.
Jones told a standing room only crowd of students, faculty and staff, “If you learn to lead people who are different than you, it by definition makes you a better leader.”
His job is to make sure United Airlines maintains a competitive advantage by being inclusive. Jones was born to humble beginnings on the Southside of Chicago, eventually joining the Navy, where he finally started to focus on his education. Jones eventually landed a job after graduate school with The General Electric Company, GE, which at the time was led by former CEO Jack Welch. Jones recalls the launch of GE's diversity work through a group of African American leaders including himself. He says, he along with other leaders gathered employee concerns about diversity and after a presentation to management, Welch challenged them to take action and develop a sustainable solution. Jones said, “That is the basis for how I think about and execute on the work I do now. It is about leadership and action.”
Jones told the students that he believes corporate America, in general, is not working at full capacity because leaders are not fully engaging their entire teams. And that, he says, impacts morale, revenue and the product.
“There is no room for discrimination anywhere. If you allow any discrimination in the workplace, for whatever reason, you’re leaving money on the table.” He added that there is a business advantage to a leader being disruptive and breaking old leadership habits to drive change in the workplace to get everyone engaged and excited on the team. “In recruiting, leaders need to see a diverse slate of job candidates who can bring a different perspective, not just people who 'look like me' or people who 'look like a leader'.”
Finally, he urged students whether it’s on campus or off, regardless of their sexual orientation, color of their skin, or nationality, “Embrace it and find out what makes you unique and different. It’s not about affirmative action or reverse discrimination. It’s about being effective. That is what I am attempting to contribute to United Airlines.”