Diversity and Inclusion Lessons for Leaders from Lens of Les Bleus

Mudiaga Aluya

Les Bleus (French National Football Team) should have been better known as ‘Les Nations Unies’. It is a conglomerate of players of many nations of mainly African descents. No thanks to French Policy of Assimilation and Association. The small seed of this policy sown many years ago has grown to become giant oak tree with many fruits. One of it is Les Bleus; which has morphed into formidable and dreaded team in the past two decades. Les Bleus exemplifies diversity and inclusion. There are lessons a leader that worth it’s salt should learn from it.

Diversity and inclusion encourages greater innovation and creativity. Les Bleus and coaching crew in the recently concluded Qatar 2022 innovated and created great alternatives each time they were challenged before and during the tournament. An example was Camavinga, who easily played left back against Tunisia and Argentina; smoking out opponents threat and becoming threat to their going forward. This change was made because Lucas Hernandez was ruled out of the tournament in Les Bleus’ opening fixture against Australia. His brother Theo is the only natural left-back left in the squad. With Les Bleus in second round already, it is of no use to start him. So the baton fell on Camavinga. His exploit, is still one of the many wonders of Qatar 2022.

Diverse, yet inclusivity in Les Bleus provides a range of skills which are tactfully utilised by the gaffer. Leaders should not consider multi-culturalism only but also diversity and inclusion in selecting team members. While multi-culturalism is representative, diversity and inclusion is both representative and competitive. It is in healthy competition that team members put their best foot forward. This is seen in electric speed of Mbappe, strength of Tchoumeni, Clinical Giroud, power of Muani and skillful Camavinga.

Diversity and inclusion offer opportunity for more talent to be chosen from the pool. If Descamps relied on multiculturalism, he would perhaps have selected 13 white or 12 black team members. This will make the team representatives. But with diversity and inclusion, his selecting pool is widened. He selected the best representatives. No wonder Lloris, Rabiot and Giroud are the only white players in the team. Worst still was the news of injured key players, before the tournament. He was able to replaced them with unsung heroes of the tournament.

Understanding customers and competitors is another benefit of diversity and inclusion. France is a multicultural society. Each culture, religion and race are well represented in Les Bleus, making them to have large fans base across the world. This is because many have a sense of belonging as a result of one or two players from their culture, race, or religion. It also affords the gaffer to assess and prepare for any opponent by using players which best suit each game.

There will be increased productivity with diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion translates to environment that recognizes the impact of every team member, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities. This acknowledgment boosts the team’s morale, which increases their productivity. Team members collaborate and have shared vision. Les Bleus was two nil down in the first half of the final against Argentina, but when Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram were brought in, they infused energy to the front line. Les Bleus was potent again, there by equalizing and held on till the final whistle.

Leaders must embrace diversity and inclusion. The benefits outweigh its flaws. A survey conducted by PwC on Global Diversity and Inclusion in 2017 of business and human resource leaders, found that; 87 per cent of respondents revealed diversity was an area of priority of focus for their organisation. A forward looking and result-oriented thought leader, must incorporate diversity and inclusion in his/her core value. A diverse team is found to be able to solve problem faster and are 87 percent better at decision making. Of what value is a manager, if his/her team can’t solve problem or take positive decision at record time.

Aluya is an educator and public policy analyst based in Lagos

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