“It is those that adjust and adapt that thrive and survive.” – anonymous
I’m sure you’ve heard this line many times in many different contexts.
It was true for species that survived massive ecological changes over the eons as it was true for companies that survive the advent of the internet.
The current shift is globalization. It’s not just about companies that go into many markets, but even in our day to day life, we find ourselves with colleagues and neighbors who look, act and think differently than us.
When I throw a last-minute party here in San Francisco, my group of friends looks like the United Nations, and this is the direction the world is going.
So why does global leadership matter? Let’s dive in.
Cultural diversity is often no longer a choice.
There is an increase in migration, both due to economic reasons and also as a lifestyle choice. Some leave a warm torn country while others seek to monetize their skills best.
When a tech company in the SF Bay Area wants to build a competent team, they cannot be selective along cultural or ethnic lines or their team will either be very small or not very skilled.
Cultural differences have always been around except they were less noticeable. There can be significant cultural gaps within a group of people who share the same skin tone: generational, gender, faith-based or regional, to name a few.
We all hear of – or have personally experienced – situations where cultural differences and miscommunication created big problems. What fewer people realize is that this can be avoided and it’s not rocket science.
Cultural diversity can be a liability or an asset; the choice is yours
When cultural diversity is the problem, we know what it looks like: different communication and work styles lead to a lot of frustration, resentment and missed deadline.
Luckily it doesn’t have to be like this.
If a culturally diverse team is lead the right way, it not only performs well but it consistently outperforms homogeneous team (!).
So if we don’t have a choice when it comes to the cards we are dealt, we do have a choice about how we play with them.
The ability to work effectively across cultures can be learned
The ability to lead a culturally diverse team effectively is called Cultural Intelligence or CQ. It’s a form of intelligence, just like IQ and EQ and it becomes critical when there more than one cultures at play.
It does not depend on where you’ve lived, worked or how many countries you’ve visited. (All those frequent watch out, don’t assume too quick having visited 50 countries means your CQ is where it should be)
Fortunately, anyone can improve it. It’s not always easy but then again, anything that’s worth having will require some effort.
The skills are useful for everyone
It’s a skill that is not only useful for the top leaders of organizations. Cross-cultural interactions can happen anytime anywhere. As a junior member of a team developing your cultural intelligence can help you get ahead in your career as well, or you can increase the impact of your volunteering or non-profit by better relating to those you are trying to help.
I use these skills on my travels, connecting with locals to experience the real day-to-day culture of a country. It helps me create the kind of experiences I couldn’t pay for.
What does a Global Leader looks like
So what does a global leader look like? It’s foremost someone who knows patience and humility.
It’s not someone who doesn’t make mistakes or who’s always right. After all, how else would you learn?
It’s also someone who can intuitively appreciate the differences and similarities between cultures and adapt his or her behavior accordingly. It’s someone who sees differences as an opportunity to learn and not something to fear.
It’s someone who can successfully navigate the complexities of today’s world and consistently achieve his or her goals, even if some course corrections are sometimes necessary along the way.
When we look back at historical changes, a few always stand out due to their success. We often say how lucky they are, but we ignore the path that led them there
It’s rarely only luck.
These successful few saw a trend and worked hard to prepare for the coming changes instead of sitting on their laurels. And it paid off.
Now you have the opportunity to see the changes coming and get tips on how to best handle it.
One winning strategy is developing your cultural intelligence or CQ. It’s an ability that anyone can pick up and it’s transferable to a variety of situations.
You can start right away by sign up on our mailing list where we provide a weekly newsletter with tips and trick on how to not only be successful in this borderless world.
How do you see the relevance of these global leadership skills?