Tip of the Iceberg: Language Barriers in Leadership

Today marked our final simulation in Leadership in a Global context. Overall, it has been a great experience, and I have really enjoyed the format used in the course incorporating aspects of experiential learning. The lessons I have learned throughout this course will surely prove valuable, both as I continue my undergraduate career and later in my professional life.

Our simulation today was focused on combating language barriers in a collaborative environment. Building upon the theme of global competence, we were placed into a scenario in which people from different backgrounds and cultures were forced to communicate to achieve a goal. The simulation was based on companies that had executives from different countries. Half of the team were native English speakers while the other half was quite limited in what they could understand. To simulate this experience, the simulation confused the non-native speakers by blurring certain parts of English sentences and putting a cap on the amount of characters they could type per minute. As the ultimate goal was to create a presentation that relied on input from every individual, it was extremely difficult to communicate. Throughout both simulations, I was a native English speaker. Obviously, it was much easier to communicate with the other English speaker on the team, and I sometimes got frustrated because of a lack of input from my other team members. At first, I was unaware of their capabilities and was just confused. However, after our first run through, I was much more understanding and worked much better with my group. I implemented some strategies such as limiting open-ended questions, using simple wording, and restating myself to ensure comprehension in our second simulation run. These were very effective and made it go much smoother.

This simulation definitely opened my eyes to the challenges of a language barrier. Here, in the United States and at a major university, it is almost a requirement to be well versed in English. I rarely run into people that I am unable to communicate with. However, this will not always be the case, especially as I progress later in life. I will be forced into a situation in which English is not the primary language and will have to find other means of communication. Today showed me that this is possible with prior experience and good understanding. A plan is necessary to tackle difficult situations such as this one. Global collaboration is difficult but is so rewarding. The experience and input from all of our international team members was invaluable in creating the presentations.

In terms of my own behaviors, I can definitely adapt to these scenarios by being more patient and understanding. Now that I am aware of the challenges, I must not get frustrated. I must have faith in the abilities of my team members. It is essential for leaders to appreciate the value of global communication and it should be emphasized in all leadership courses. However, this does not just apply to leadership. Any form of communication with people of different cultures and backgrounds needs this type of approach. In order to form relationships with diverse individuals, it is essential for me to be open-minded, patient, and nonjudgemental. I want to be able to connect with all types of people and mastering the aspects of global collaboration is the first step in that process.

Throughout my Leadership in a Global Context journey, I have picked up many skills and have focused a lot on aspects that I had not really even heard of. Most recently, this showed how to communicate with people from different cultures in an appropriate manner. Previously, I also received advice on how to correctly behave as a leader, how to create an inclusive environment, and how to ensure participation of a team. These lessons will be incredibly useful as I progress. Instead of taking my leadership positions for granted, I will approach these opportunities through a new lens, using my newly acquired skills to strive for efficiency and achievement. Currently, my leadership goals are focused on eliminating education disparity in my local community. I hope to use what I have learned in Leadership in a Global Context to further my impact and leadership potential.

From now on, I will start reaching out to the quieter members of my team for their input. I have learned that every member has invaluable input and hope to create an environment where everyone feels safe to share their opinions. From now on, I will stop becoming frustrated with a lack of communication. Communication and collaboration, especially at a global level, take a lot of practice and patience. I must be more understanding. Additionally, I will continue developing my leadership philosophy as I hear new ideas and encounter new scenarios. I have learned that leaders must be incredibly adaptable, and I want to continue to learn and grow. I believe I just need to change how I view others. I need to make sure that every opinion is accounted for. Team members should be valued just as much as the leader.

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