Reflection on Leadership from a Global Context

In today’s world, leaders frequently need to think beyond the borders of their own country. Globalization has brought the world closer together and has made interacting globally a fundamental part of most industries. To me, leading in collaborative or competitive global endeavors is how we can define leadership in a global context. Yet, in order to be an effective leader within this context, one must develop a global viewpoint. They must be able to think from a perspective that was not the one within which they were raised. Essential to this is learning about cultural nuances. Cultural nuances can be learned in a variety of ways. Watching films, reading books, or listening to conversations from other cultures are all ways that one can learn about them. You can also seek out a mentor; someone who is already familiar with another culture. Knowing more than one culture makes a person a more capable global leader that can take better control over their team. Cultural intelligence is essential to the modern economy.

Today’s reading from Harvard Managementor: Global Collaboration taught me three key lessons about global leadership. First off, there are far more areas of cultural nuance than I would have anticipated. Things that just seem like common sense to me, are actually very different in other parts of the world. Examples of this would be things like showing up to a meeting prior to the start time. The second lesson involves instruction. Prior to today’s reading, I believed that the biggest barrier to understanding the meaning of foreign colleagues was language. However, I now realize that cultural context plays a huge role. Not only does one need to understand the words of another language, but they also need to understand the subtext of the language in many cultures in order to effectively grasp the meaning. This brings me to my third big takeaway. You can always learn more about language. I, like professor Schultz, used to believe that it was enough to understand just enough of a language to convey your meaning. However, now I realize the value of mastering a language. This inspires me to put more work into pursuing a second language.

The multiculturalism reading got me thinking about my own multiculturalism. I reviewed the questions clarifying what it meant to be multicultural, and I have come to the conclusion that I am currently monocultural. I was raised within the majority culture in my area, and this culture is all I’ve ever known. I possess some knowledge of other cultures through my studies, but not enough that I would consider it any more than trivia. This is a wake-up call for me. One of the ways that I want to change this is by traveling and experiencing another culture firsthand. I believe that I will learn best through doing, and so I’m going to try to engage with Pitt Study abroad in the future.

Global competency is the ability to understand the individuals that you’re working with within a global context. Leaders who possess a global competency can effectively manage people from around the world without making anyone feel isolated or offended. Without global competency, a leader risks alienating members of a team, which leads to ineffectiveness and usually a subpar result. Luckily, global competence can be improved. Leaders can learn about different cultures preventing as many misunderstandings as possible. They can also foster an inclusive environment where diverse people feel comfortable sharing their unique perspectives. They can also learn about the group power dynamic, and reorganize their team so that no one faction within it feels irrelevant.

Erin Meyer demonstrated just how many cultural nuances we have as a society, and how difficult yet crucial it can be to try to learn them all. Specifically, I am thinking about the Japanese Q&A session, in which the team members indicated that they had a question through the ‘brightness’ of their eyes. Valuable information can easily go unshared, and offense is easy to give if someone is not accustomed to cultural nuance. Another insight she offered regarded responses to feedback. Here, her description of a two-sided pendulum made intuitive sense to me. Some cultures are more direct in negative feedback, whereas others try to protect feelings at all costs. Some cultures lie in the middle. This two-dimensional model seems logical for how I as an individual approach unique feedback offering situations, and therefore I can see its value from a geopolitical lens as well.

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