Student Research Feature: John Devitt

Photo of John Devitt

The School of Leadership Studies would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to John Devitt on the completion of a Master’s Thesis titled, Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion at Fair Vote Canada: Transforming Organizational Culture.

This thesis is available through RRU’s library here.

We asked John a few questions about this research and this is what they said:

What are some key takeaways from your thesis that would be helpful for other leaders?

Creating safe, welcoming spaces for diversity and inclusion is a timely and vital issue currently faced by many leaders.  As leaders we must be constantly striving to raise our own awareness of the uniqueness of those we lead, and then work to proactively engage them based on their own needs, values, experiences, and skills.  Maintaining constant communication and proactive feedback loops was often cited as intrinsic to creating these spaces.  There is a very high correlation between individuals feeling welcome and included to improved morale and engagement, leading to greater success and effectiveness of organizations.  Prioritizing diversity and inclusion initiatives in our workplaces makes good business sense!

How is the organization moving change forward based on your work?

My organizational partner has already begun improving internal communication and knowledge sharing which were two key elements recommended throughout my work.  Transforming organizational culture is dynamic.  Short-term wins are vital to developing passion and engagement to the change process, but leaders must be cautious not to avoid dealing with more difficult challenges related to diversity and inclusion.  It is an ongoing journey that evolves as our own awareness and understanding does and requires a lot of commitment from leaders.  However, the wonderful aspect of my work was the high level of engagement and innovation demonstrated by inquiry participants in developing solutions.  This passion is a key leverage point for the organization to help it move forward.

What surprised you about your experience of the thesis process?

I think the one key takeaway I learned and shared in my work is that there is no black or white, there is only gray.  There is no “one” way of conducting action research.  It’s an evolving process that is constantly in flux based on many variables within the project.  The direction that unfolds, is the direction.  The real value is in the journey itself.  I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other, one step after the next, and kept moving forward, never really certain where I’d end up, and now that it’s finished, I already kind of miss it!

How are you applying lessons learned from your whole MA-Leadership journey?

There are so many things I gained from this journey I don’t know where to begin.  I think ultimately, I’ve come to better appreciate vulnerability as the source of our growth as humans and leaders.  When we share the vulnerable parts of ourselves, we can connect more authentically with others and build stronger communities.  Leadership is about acknowledging we are all unique human beings doing the best we can and helping to lift each other up.  It’s an ongoing practice for me and just the beginning of my next journey.