Cross-Cultural Leadership

Establish a shared corporate culture that spans national cultures.

© iStockphoto/daveedwards

Few successful businesses now work with people from only one culture. At the shallowest level, most Western businesses (even those based in one location) employ people from many cultural backgrounds. At a deeper level, the impact of globalization and cost differences between regions means that many companies either outsource parts of their business or are outsourcing partners for other businesses.

Because of this, leaders in the 21st Century need to be adept at managing people of different cultures. They need to be able to grasp the essence of each culture quickly, because culture is so important in shaping customer or employee behavior. And leaders must learn to shape culture (at least that in their own organizations) so that it is positive, and aligned with the direction the organization is taking.

To do any less means that they will fail to get the best from the individuals with whom they work, and will not be able to draw on the strengths that different cultures offer.

Culture operates at different levels. At one level, individuals are shaped by their ethnic, racial, religious and national backgrounds. At another, they are influenced by the standards, ideals values and experience of their teams. And at yet another level, they are shaped by the culture of their organization. Culture is complex and multi-faceted.

However, you can start to understand the cultures you are exposed to by looking at the following things:

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