Cross-Cultural Leadership

Cross-Cultural Leadership

Understanding of how individuals of different cultures interact with each other is very important. Not all individuals can adapt to the leadership styles expected in a different culture whether that culture is organizational or national. In a fast-paced business environment, developing a richer understanding and sensitivity to other cultures is a skill that leaders must possess. Learn to be effective in a cross-cultural setting.

Why we need Cross-Cultural Leadership?

As workforces become increasingly multicultural and businesses continue to expand overseas, the homogenous workforce has become a thing of the past. In such a global economy, cross-cultural leadership skills are critically important. Global markets are increasingly taking advantage of the strength and economic advantages of a diverse global workforce. Most of the companies operate on international projects with multi-cultural teams located in multiple countries. It is also common to find such projects led by Project Managers who come from many different countries that add diversity to the teams and creates a need for a greater amount of collaboration and need for leadership at multiple levels.

Today’s international organizations require leaders who can adjust to different environments quickly and work with partners and employees of other cultures. As firms move from regional to trans-global enterprise models, leadership must provide the bridge between cultural diversity and business goals achievement. The ability of a leader to motivate diverse teams to manage change effectively is a critical issue in the international environment. It cannot be assumed that a manager who is successful in one country will be successful in another.

What is Cross-Cultural Leadership?

Cross-cultural psychology attempts to understand how individuals of different cultures interact with each other. Cross-cultural leadership is the way to understand leaders who work in the newly globalized market. Cross-cultural leadership involves the ability to influence and motivate people’s attitudes and behaviors in the global community to reach a common organizational goal.

GLOBE authors describe organizational leadership as “the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members” and their definition for culture includes “shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives and are transmitted across age generations.”

Theories on Cross-Cultural Leadership:

Implicit Leadership Theory (ILT):

This theory asserts that people’s underlying assumptions, stereotypes, beliefs, and schemas influence the extent to which they view someone as a good leader. Since people across cultures tend to hold different implicit beliefs, schemas and stereotypes, it would seem only natural that their underlying beliefs in what makes a good leader differ across cultures.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions:

This is one of the most prominent and influential studies to date regarding leadership in a globalized world. The study reveals similarities as well as differences across cultures and emphasizes the need to be open-minded to understand the differences in other cultures. As per this theory, there are five dimensions of culture to compare cultures, to help leaders with an understanding of how to adjust their leadership styles accordingly; Individualism/Collectivism, Feminine/Masculine, Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long Term/ Short Term orientation.

GLOBE – The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Project:

The GLOBE study extended the ILT to include individuals of a common culture maintaining a relatively stable common belief about leaders, which varies from culture to culture. They labeled this the Culturally Endorsed Implicit Leadership Theory (CLT). The GLOBE study expanded Hofstede’s dimensions to include Uncertainty Avoidance, Power Distance, Collectivism I: Societal Collectivism, Collectivism II: In-Group Collectivism, Gender Egalitarianism, Assertiveness, Future Orientation, Performance Orientation, and Humane Orientation.

Traits for Cross-Cultural Leader:

Given below is a list of traits found to be associated with successful international executive by different researchers:

  • General Intelligence
  • Business Knowledge
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Ease in dealing with cross-cultural issues
  • Open Personality
  • Flexibility
  • Drive
  • Language Skills
  • Multicultural Perspective Taking
  • Knowledge and cognition
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Cross-cultural Schema
  • Cognitive Complexity

An effective cross-cultural leader must have a well-rounded skillset and understanding of the differences that exist among people from different backgrounds.

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