Crosscultural leadership

Diana is a very skilled manager. She works at an international company and has demonstrated excellent people management skills leading a local team in her home country. The leadership team of her business unit together with Human Resources have identified her as a high potential talent and offered her to take a lead of a new team of fifteen individuals of different cultural backgrounds and spread across various countries. While Diana keeps proving her expertise in the field, her team struggles to deliver tasks on time, they operate more like a group of independent individuals rather than a team, some of the team members accuse her of being too directive while others ask for more of her guidance. Diana works hard to prove to the whole leadership team that she was the right candidate for this job and as she invests huge energy into understanding the cultural specifics of each team member and defining a strategy that would make her teamwork, she starts feeling fatigue which later leads to her burn out.
While I changed the name of the protagonist to protect her privacy, her story is true and is one of many that happen all the time in international organizations. Cross-cultural teams often arise because people with the best expertise, knowledge, or access to resources do not necessarily originate from the same geography, or because of the organizational structure of a global company. There is a need for the team members to work together, even though they are geographically dispersed, they often communicate electronically rather than by meeting face-to-face, thus the completion of their tasks may be more challenging. Cross-cultural teams come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are created for many different purposes. They can occur in almost any industry or sector.
Back in 2006, when the magazine The Economist asked business leaders representing various industries and countries what they considered as the top business challenge of the 21st century, almost 90% of them agreed it would be the cross-cultural leadership. The respondents gave their four main reasons: first, as most of the business organizations operate globally today or at least plan to expand to new markets, they need culturally skilled leaders who will better understand the needs of diverse customers. Second, these culturally skilled leaders know what it takes to succeed when working across cultures, so they can identify the right talent, maintain it and develop it further. Third, culturally competent leaders feel more comfortable and are more efficient when managing diverse teams. And finally, they demonstrate behavioral flexibility adjusting their leadership style.
Cross-cultural leadership is the process of influencing the thinking, attitudes, and behaviors of team members from multiple cultures to create synergies and to work together toward a shared vision and common goal. It is a multidimensional construct that consists of two main competencies: global business competency and intercultural competency. While the former represents the global business expertise, global organizing expertise, and visioning, the latter is defined as a set of emotional, cognitive, metacognitive and behavioral skills that support effective interaction in a variety of cultural contexts. Leaders who are culturally skilled recognize the cues that indicate that team members may be holding different worldviews or cognitive styles. They suspend judgment as to which might be the best way of doing things, observing and listening so as to learn as much as possible from the team members. They can adjust their own behavior to build strong social interactions and relationships with, and among, the team members, be sensitive to emotional reactions and particular member needs, and help ensure that these needs are met. And they are also able to manage their own workload and the uncertainty related to the ambiguous nature of cross-cultural encounters.
To develop this very particular set of skills in leaders and professionals, organizations need to create effective cross-cultural leadership development programs.

Andrej Juriga
About Andrej Juriga 1 Article
Andrej Juriga is a certified facilitator of emotional and cultural intelligence. He delivers workshops and coaching to organizations from a variety of countries and industries helping participants to manage emotional reactions to differences and to build strategies how to bridge those differences. He has a background in corporate Sales and in Human Resources at a national and global level where he led large teams and consulted leaders from all around the world. He lived in five different countries in Europe and Africa, and is currently based in Slovakia and Hungary.

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