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.”
As Senior Vice-President, Office of the CEO, John advises the executive leadership on emerging trends in Canada’s economy, providing insights grounded in his travels across the country and around the world. His work focuses on technological change and innovation, examining how to successfully navigate the new economy so more people can thrive in the age of disruption. Prior to joining RBC, John spent nearly 25 years at the Globe and Mail, where he served as editor-in-chief, editor of Report on Business, and a foreign correspondent in New Delhi, India. He is the author of three books and has a fourth underway.
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