Today, we looked at leadership and analyzed it with a global lens. Leadership in a global context means being aware of cultural differences and the obstacles that accompany them while actively using methods to triumph over them. It means being able to lead beyond the borders of your own culture, but rather on a global scale. Effective global leaders educate themselves on the cultures they are doing business with and attempt to make their global partners feel comfortable through language, dress, hand gestures, etc. Without a global viewpoint, there would be a degree of ignorance when dealing with other cultures, and a productive partnership would not result. Some ways in which one can learn about cultural differences/similarities is through observation— watching movies, listening to music, and reading books are especially efficient ways to do so. They are also able to confront any “us versus them” tensions in the workplace by reiterating their goals and expectations.
The top three lessons I learned from the Harvard ManageMentor were regarding time zone issues, building trust, and the importance of cultural competency. In order to alleviate time zone issues when scheduling conference call meetings, the best course of action is to “inconvenience everyone equally”. This method makes it fair for everyone and shows there is no partiality for one country over another. Building trust is also extremely important because teams cannot function without trust. The ManageMentor discussed the concept of swift trust— an atmosphere where either everyone will fail or everyone will succeed. For the reputation of the company, this gives people no choice but to trust each other. Concerning cultural competency, I particularly liked the example of the World Bank businessman traveling to Ghana. He met with one of the CEOS of a large bank in Ghana, and right off the bat, the man from Ghana told the businessman he only had two minutes to speak and he won’t trust a word he says. The businessman was from South America, a continent connected to Africa with similar histories. He used his background to empathize with the CEO, which created a positive shift in the conversation. This example showed me how being knowledgeable of history as well as other cultures gives you a huge advantage in the workplace.
Multicultural competence is based on a variety of factors— knowledge of other cultures, cultural identity, and cultural internalization. I would rate my own multicultural competence as moderately multicultural. My ethnic background is South Asian, and I would say that I have a high level of knowledge, identity, and internalization of both Indian and American culture.
A key lesson I took away from the Cultural Map / Erin Meyer discussion was the different ways countries communicate. Some countries, such as the US, are low context. This means they speak unambiguously and not much context is needed to comprehend the conversation. Conversely, other countries have a high context of speech. She used Hindi as an example of a high context language because there is a degree of ambiguity, and context is needed to understand it. She also talked about feedback and the different ways countries provide it. I loved her example of the Dutch and British men giving feedback to one another; the Dutch man gave multiple, direct suggestions which offended the British man. The British man gave the Dutch man only a few minor suggestions, which created a sense of fakeness and caused distrust between the two. Her discussion shows how in order to avoid feeling offended, it is important to recognize that other cultures speak differently than you. More productive interactions will occur if one can obtain this cultural awareness.