I coach a lot of international business leaders. One of the key messages I try to deliver in all of my workshops is that the future role of the leader has moved away from just focusing on result, output, productivity, and profit. Now, much more attention must be given to the employee—an employee who is no longer just part of the process, part of the productive machine, but rather a person with wishes, ideas, and development potential.
These days, there is a strong chance that your employees come from a different culture than your own. This creates the need for what one might describe as a new trinity for the intelligent global leader. We talk about ordinary intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ); now a third intelligence is required: cultural intelligence (CQ).
Successful future leaders will need CQ. The good news is that CQ is learnable, which sets it apart from IQ and possibly also EQ. I have seen how a lack of CQ has caused cross-cultural misunderstandings and the souring of negotiations. I often work with smart, empathic expat leaders who are desperately trying to build a team and run business in a different culture but failing because they lack the necessary CQ.
CQ will boost the relationship skills and sensitivity that allows these leaders to understand the deep cultural undercurrents that drive the behavior of their staff. Applying this third intelligence propels us ever closer to fully capturing the value of diversity.
Erin Meyer says in her book, The Culture Map, “What’s new is the requirement for twenty-first century leaders to be prepared to understand a wider, richer array of work styles than ever before and to be able to determine what aspects of an interaction are simply a result of personality and which are a result of differences in cultural perspective.”
The world is smaller. Now, the greatest distance between two people is misunderstanding.
One hundred years ago, Dutch poet Martinus Nijhof described the world in his famous poem, “The Wanderer,” as one which is so far away we cannot touch or hear it.
. . . I am a spectator looking out
from a high tower,
A space divides me from the
rest of the world,
That I see as small and as very
I cannot touch or hear it . . .
The world has become a much smaller place than that described by Martinus Nijhoff. It is often just one click away. We can see it, and it is within our reach. We are more social media–savvy than ever. It is no longer geography that separates us. Indeed, the greatest distance between two people now is misunderstanding.
It Starts With Our LeadersIdeally, every company that wants to be successful needs a top management team, and layers below that are a reflection of the markets on which they are focused. Unfortunately, that often is not the case. A lot of the time, it is down to the leaders to ensure the flag of diversity is raised high on every possible company flagpole. It starts with our leaders, who must deliver a shared vision and inspire people to move forward. And yet, to get people to the point where they commit to the company’s vision (which will ultimately transcend cultural values), leaders need to engage and motivate them by locking in to their cultural needs. It is not enough to lead only from your own cultural values; to lead a multicultural team requires cultural sensitivity, global perspectives, and a worldly approach.
Our view of the world is instilled in us from our own particular cultural perspective. This is often called ethnocentrism—the tendency to view and interpret the behavior of others through a personal cultural lens. It is important to start with understanding our own cultural lens, and realize that we need an outlook that takes into account how other cultures look at the world.
Future leaders will need to understand their own unique cocktail of talents, ambitions, biases, and vulnerabilities to help them manage the cultural differences they will face. Your (cultural) rules will not always work with or in another culture. Rules will differ not only on what hierarchy means, but also on how we negotiate, influence, view time, build relationships, and engage in many other behaviors.
Join me for the session, “Capturing the Value of Diversity,” on May 9 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO. Look for my book, The Eight Great Beacons of Cultural Awareness, available in the ATD Bookstore.