Multicultural environment and leadership

cultural differencesIn situations when you have to introduce yourself where do you usually place your family name: in front of a given one or behind it? Do you call other people by their first name? Koreans for example remain largely as ‘people with no given names’. We often say ‘my’ school or ‘my’ office or ‘my’ country; the Japanese people say ‘our’ school or ‘our’ office or ‘our’ country and even ‘our husband’? In Western culture we use ‘Hi,’ ‘Thank you,’ ‘You’re welcome,’ or ‘I’m sorry’. In China the same is preferably expressed by eye contacts or body gestures. When eating with friends do you share dishes or does each of you have your own plate just for yourself?

cultural impact onAbove are just some cultural differences that you may see when visiting the countries around the globe. For a short visit some mistakes are not significant but if you are in the position to lead a multicultural team also these mistakes may influence the job outcome.

For me the most important is that you “understand” the differences. Next important issue is that you have to ‘be aware of’ your ‘cultural background noise’ as I’ve talked about in my TEDx talk. A cultural background noise may be blocking your vision on others’ cultural issues. If you surpass it you are prepared to accept and change.

Global business environmentGlobal business environment is facing important and challenging (not any more so new) factors: different languages, time zones, channels/modes of communication, physical distance, and consequently a large and variable mixture of cultural factors. In today’s global world it is increasingly important and desirable to understand these differences and even more, to understand how they require a different leadership and management style.

There are numerous studies that deal with cultural impact on management, leadership, team building, motivation, etc. as these factors influence work processes, decision-making, management, work habits and even get embodied in national work-related legislation. To be able to lead and to predict behaviors a modern leader is supposed to grasp them and not to give and take offence due to misunderstanding of cultural issues.

In my post “Learning Leadership from Martial Arts – I” the central blog question was: “How to successfully lead a group of people coming from different cultural backgrounds?” and some possible answers were given.

To stimulate some of the thinking I’d like to share certain questions should we concentrate and consider on the differences that would obviously require unlike styles of leadership or should we rather try to find what the same in all of us is uniquely? As our bodies (mostly) perform task the same way why shouldn’t it be the same with our mental part? Are there some deep rooted values that we share across the globe? Can they be used for different leadership approaches that comprehend them in leadership across the cultures?

What is your opinion about the subject?


  1. I think a smile is always the way to go when meeting or greeting someone new. A smile is universal. Don't you think?

    1. Smile, love, compassion, trust, ... we are more the same than different. You agree?


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