Leading Across Cultures


Leading X CulturesBack in February, my friend and respected colleague, Michael Tucker, sent me a white paper on leading across cultures that he had just completed with one of our customers, Right Management. I meant to write about the 24-page report at the time, but, alas, time passes while we are focusing on other exciting things.

This was an interesting study due to its scope: participants included 1867 leaders of 13 nationalities, representing 134 industries.

“As we enter the Human Age, where Talentism is the new Capitalism, no organization can afford to overlook optimizing the performance of leaders who operate globally. … The fact is that cultural issues will dominate the competencies required for global leaders to be successful, now and in the future.”

80% of CEOs and human resource professionals reported Cultural Assimilation as the greatest challenge facing successful expatriates. Study findings showed that global leadership differs from domestic leadership due to the complexity of working with people from different cultures. “The global experience results in leaders developing new worldviews, mindsets, perceptual acumen and perspectives,” the white paper states.

“Leading across cultures is a critical element of leading in the Human Age and unleashing the power of what is humanly possible. It often requires making decisions in complex or ambiguous environments, understanding cultural nuances and adapting one’s style accordingly.”

Global Leadership Best PracticesThe study found six competencies required for global leadership success:

  1. Adapting Socially: the ability to socialize comfortably with new people in unfamiliar social situations and to demonstrate genuine interest in other people.
  2. Demonstrating Creativity: the ability to enjoy new challenges, strive for innovative solutions to social and situational issues, and learn from a variety of sources.
  3. Even Disposition: the ability to remain calm, not be critical of self, and learn from mistakes.
  4. Respecting Beliefs: the ability to demonstrate respect for the political and spiritual beliefs of people in other cultures, and the ability to use appropriate humor to diffuse tense situations.
  5. Instilling Trust: the ability to build and maintain trusting relationships. According to the report, trust is the one glue that holds diverse teams together.
  6. Navigating Ambiguity: the ability to work through vagueness and uncertainty, without becoming frustrated, and figure out how things are done in other cultures. Ambiguous situations are the norm in leading across cultures.

“Human Age leaders have the responsibility and opportunity to unleash the potential of all employees who work for them. To effectively unleash this passion and accelerate business success, leaders need new and different skills—managing diverse talent.”

The white paper concludes with four strategies for selecting, developing and retaining leaders who will succeed in a global business environment. An ongoing, structured learning experience such as Cultural Detective Online not only supports, but makes possible, each of the four:

  1. Select Overseas Managers includes assessment processes such as Tucker’s, and developmental tools such as Cultural Detective, used by a competent administrator/facilitator.
  2. Grow International Leadership Bench Strength includes developing and nurturing leaders as well as providing coaching—each of which are greatly aided by the Cultural Detective toolset.
  3. Ensure Success of Leaders in New International Roles includes assigning a coach and meeting for regular reviews, both of which can be significantly enhanced with a subscription to Cultural Detective Online.
  4. Localize Country Management Teams includes the creation of customized leader plans and coaching support. Again, you know what toolset is perfect for this!

This is an excellent report, which I recommend you review in its entirety. We appreciate Tucker International and Right Management making it available. I suspect we can all learn something from this reminder of what it takes to be a competent global leader.

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