Interculturally Competent Leadership

If an organization wants to be more inclusive, how leaders behave will determine success or failure. Leaders set the tone for others to follow.

It is said that employees expect four things from their leaders or managers: meaning or direction, trust in and from the leader, a sense of hope and optimism, and results.

In his seminal book Inclusive Leadership, Edwin P. Hollander identifies the following guiding principles:

  1. Respecting members of the team and their individuality
  2. Showing awareness of individual contribution and fairly recognizing them
  3. Guiding group discussions about goals and actively listening
  4. Decide what performances are needed to achieve goals and giving feedback
  5. Always looking forward and not simply reviewing the past
  6. Living up to the responsibility of being a leader
  7. Use honest communication to foster trust and loyalty.

These are excellent principles all leaders should abide by to help others  to be more productive, reach their full potential and to meet organizational goals.

In addition, leaders must be interculturally competent; able to be a “bridge” that connects their own culture — values, beliefs, standards of behaviour, etc — with someone else’s culture.

The interculturally competent leader:

  • Is able to appropriately shift his or her perspectives and change their behaviours when confronted with cultural differences in the workplace.
  • Openly shares her knowledge to help others
  •  Is comfortable admitting they “don’t know”
  • Goes beyond tolerance to true inclusion where differences are valued
  •  Is willing to make changes on a systemic level to help the entire organization
  •  Understands that diversity and inclusion is not a race but a journey everyone in the organization should a part of.

There are so many of leadership styles being purported these days, it can be confusing; from the coaching leader to the transformational leader to the adaptive leader. Whatever “style” you use, being the bridge between you and others could be the difference between success and failure.

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