Today in “Leadership in a Global Context”, we focused on just that: leadership in a global context. For me, this leadership is all about turning the difficulties of working across geographic and cultural borders to a power that can be weaponized for a team’s success. Global collaborations, when handled effectively, can provide incredibly useful perspectives and thought processes that would be impossible to be generated from a monocultural group. In the same way, maintaining a global viewpoint—that is, keeping an open mind and embracing different perspectives and traditions—is similarly essential to see this type of success. Having a global viewpoint here means embracing the cultural and intellectual diversity of the world, and avoiding anchoring yourself to a single mindset. Both a global mindset and the skills to lead an effective global team can be developed by studying and embracing the culture on its own terms. Researching the subtle differences that define a culture is the foundation of successful global communication.
To learn about leading in a global context, we read through “Harvard ManageMentor: Global Collaboration”, an interactive learning resource focusing on the difficulties and benefits of working globally. One of the most interesting pieces of advice it offered was the methods by which you should do research about a culture. It suggested simply watching movies and reading books produced by and for the culture: engaging with its media to begin to pick up on the subtle differences between their culture and our own. This type of research is not something I would have really thought of, even if it is so obvious. I would have more naturally gravitated towards research and books about the culture; not ones from within it, but from the outside looking in. I also loved the reading’s strategies for breaking down language barriers. It suggested offering a list of phrases and jargon that may not normally translate very well, and brought up the importance of balancing the conversation and soliciting opinion for non-native speakers who may be less inclined to speak up. When I imagined a language barrier, I imagined two groups unable to communicate at all because they don’t speak each other’s languages, not the scenario where a common language is available but non-native speakers are disadvantaged, and this is certainly something I will look out for in the future. The reading’s emphasis on group size and dynamics was also fascinating—I think it’s very natural to automatically benefit the largest group when deciding on meeting times and deadlines, but balancing the inconvenience and the relative group sizes is actually essential to keeping everybody involved.
We also touched on the way multiculturalism can manifest and the many ways it can shape a person or group. Overall, I would rate myself as minimally multicultural: I don’t really connect with more than one culture, and have only really internalized a single one. This isn’t something that is likely to change overnight, but I want to work actively to make sure I cultivate multicultural competence. Similarly, global competence is also an essential skill for developing leaders. Being able to successfully navigate a group or meeting with people from a diverse set of cultures is hard, and is a skill that must be actively worked on and researched to see outcomes. Constantly reading and immersing yourself within cultures that differ from the one you identify with is essential. This exact concept was my biggest takeaway from our discussion on Erin Meyer’s presentation—the absolute importance of embracing and researching a culture on its own terms, not as a small list of facts but as a complicated group of people with a (sometimes fundamentally) different mindset, and adapting your language and approach to follow suit (when in Rome!). I’m really excited to apply today’s lesson to tomorrow’s simulation of global leadership, and am excited to continue my journey with “Leadership in a Global Context”!