Personally, leadership in a global context means the ability to adapt and effectively lead a group while also navigating through cultural differences. Because of the differences among cultures both nationally and internationally, methods of communication over physical distance, language barriers, and different expectations can lead to problems within a team. Without a global viewpoint, misunderstandings over these issues can crop up easily. Getting a sense of of a culture important to a group is a key way to stay open-minded and flexible when variations occur. Some methods to get a better understanding include watching a movie or reading a book from the area, or simply by observation of what specific team members value in the workplace.
Through the Harvard ManageMentor: Global Collaboration module, three key things stood out to me. The importance of formalities and how they could make or break a negotiation had barely crossed my mind until now, and the large spectrum of what’s considered “acceptable” in different cultures is incredibly varied. Getting acquainted with other cultures before diving in to work with new people has really reinforced the idea of a leader being able to understand their team and working well within a group to reach the goal. Another important piece that jumped at me from the module was about how physical distance needed to be managed along different lines. At first, I thought that physical distance would be simple–we’ve been doing zoom calls regularly for over a year now! The module helped me understand that there were more issues to consider, including different time zones inconveniencing group members, language barriers, and getting to know the team better. Communication is still key, and physical distance that both is inconvenient for team members and harder to understand people with needs to be dealt with as a leader. I also was astounded by the idea of “inconveniencing everyone equally” when working internationally, in order to fight off building resentment if a meeting would annoy the same team members repeatedly. Working to keep all team members civil and hopefully happy with their team is important, and this solution was a very good idea of types of compromise necessary for global collaboration.
Reflecting on multiculturalism in the reading, I would rate my overall multicultural competence as moderate. I’ve grown up around a community of Indian-Americans and Indian immigrants, but have mostly interacted the culture through family and friends. I don’t have much experience doing any sort of business with Indians (or Americans, for that matter), so I may not have much competence in that area yet. I’d improve my skills by talking to people I know and asking about how they usually conduct business.
Global competency are transferrable skills leaders should have in order to work effectively in global collaborations. Some external skills pertaining to this include global awareness, having historical context, and collaboration across cultures. Internal skills include being attentive to diversity, open-mindedness, and self-awareness. I believe people can improve their global competence by meeting new people from diverse backgrounds and understanding that there’s no way everyone to function in the same way.
Through the Cultural Map discussion, I got a better understanding of how different countries would typically communicate, on a scale of low to high context. It was really interesting to understand how low the US context is for communication on the scale, while other countries had such high context communication. The example Erin Meyer gave about the eye-brightness of willing participants in Japan gave me some great context for types of communication I have rarely seen before. I find the communication and feedback differences in different cultures fascinating, and very hard to grasp without examples. I feel like accepting that cultures are different and actually experiencing instances where differences occur are two separate things, and the examples given were helpful in preparing me to keep an open mind in the future.