It's only June, but Dax Dasilva's already had a big year.
In March, his Montreal-based tech company Lightspeed went public, and in April, his first book, Age of Union, was released. It’s part memoir, part manifesto, and it showcases something to celebrate this Pride month: diversity and inclusion could change everything.
Dasilva is one of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs: Lightspeed is valued at $1.7 billion, a rare Canadian unicorn. His leadership at the company is legendary. But in Age of Union he talks about how he didn’t always see himself as a leader – he didn’t think he fit the mold.
“I never saw myself as having the Type-A characteristics of traditional leaders,” Dasilva writes. “I chose instead to leverage my position by valorizing diverse perspectives. This has allowed me to find my own methods of leadership, elevated by the voices of others.”
Dasilva came out as gay in the 1990s, when he was still a teen. That experience helped to shape him into someone who deeply understands the value of community connections, bringing together diverse thinkers, and raising others up.
Dasilva defines his leadership style as “empowering, optimistic, unifying, risk-taking, and supportive.”
Last June, when Dasilva joined us as a guest at our RBC Disruptors talk as part of Pride Month, he spoke about how diversity and inclusion can spur innovation. Long before Lightspeed went public, this conviction had informed every step of its growth.
“We hired brilliant people. And we established teams in places with cultures as diverse as Montreal, Amsterdam, Ghent, New York, London, and the U.S. west coast, which themselves revealed subcultures in every department of engineering, sales, support and operations. Somehow, we have still been able to find unity on our mission – a celebration of all that diversity can bring to a company born of the digital age.”
The data backs up the value of diversity: a McKinsey report found firms that place in the “top quartile for racial or ethnic diversity” are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns.
Moving forward, Dasilva encourages leaders to think about inclusion every step of the way: “Nurture diversity in all aspects of your project: the team, the programming, the audiences you cultivate.”
It just might change the world.
“Seeking input and knowledge from people’s diverse backgrounds will lead to finding richer solutions to the world’s problems, solutions that work for all and not just a select few.”
John Stackhouse is a nationally bestselling author and one of Canada’s leading voices on innovation and economic disruption. He is senior vice-president in the Office of the CEO at Royal Bank of Canada, leading the organization’s research and thought leadership on economic, technological and social change. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail and editor of Report on Business. He is a senior fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and sits on the boards of Queen’s University, the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada and the Literary Review of Canada. His latest book, "Planet Canada: How Our Expats Are Shaping the Future", explores the untapped resource of the millions of Canadians who don’t live here but exert their influence from afar.
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