This month at LeaderTalk we have been talking about the leadership principle “A leader values and engages others.” Earlier this week, I participated in a webinar sponsored by the International Leadership Association. Dr. Todd Pittinsky spoke on the topic of “Intergroup Leadership.” His research explores the importance of encouraging positive interaction between distinct subgroups.

What is the opposite of prejudice? Pittinsky asked. In those he surveyed, the most frequent reply: tolerance.

But tolerance doesn’t come close to being the opposite of prejudice according to Pittinsky. Neither do acceptance or respect, other terms noted in the survey.

Instead, he has created his own term to describe the concept of having a positive attitude for a group that is not one’s own. This positive feeling is much more than the absence of negative feelings.


From Greek words meaning “liking or loving the other other,” allophilia consists of five factors: comfort, kinship, affection, engagement, and enthusiasm.

When we express allophilia in our relationship with people who are different from us, we are proactively engaged in supporting them.

For leaders to effectively work with people from diverse groups, they need to go beyond bring individuals together and instead work to bring subgroups together. In doing so, leaders face two distinct tasks:

  • reducing negative feelings or actions between subgroups and
  • creating positive attitudes and interactions.

Pittinsky used two metaphors that clearly illustrate this concept.

The Garden

To display the beauty of your garden, you must pull weeds regularly and give your plants room to breathe and grow. But suppose the gardener spent day after day weeding and never planted any flowers? A empty patch of dirt is not a garden.

There is no garden until the gardener sows the seeds and waters the plants.

In the same way, a leader must pull the weeds of prejudice, hatred, and resentment from his organization before they choke the life from his plants. But he must also take the time to sow positive actions and relationships among the people he leads so that kindness and supportiveness can spring to life.

The Balance Sheet

Your company has two fiscal responsibilities: to reduce debt and generate income for your organization. If you reduce, or even eliminate your organization’s debt but fail to produce streams of income, your organization is in trouble.

A leader who reduces debt in his organization by reducing negative attitudes among subgroups still has the job of generating income (creating positive attitudes and interaction).

Dr. Pittinsky’s scholarship on the topic of intergroup Leadership challenges leaders to make a difference by encouraging subgroups to value and engage each other. By creating positive relationships among “groups of others,” we begin to shape a world where people cross boundaries, joining together to accomplish common goals.

Join the conversation!

How do you increase positive interactions between different subgroups in your organization?

How do you decrease negative ones?

Which seems easier: building positive regard between subgroups or eliminating negativity?

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.