Interculturally Competent Leadership

Members of the Diversity Leadership Council in one client organization identified behaviours of 
interculturally competent leaders and described their own leaders’ behaviours. Here is what 
they told DiversiPro:

Leadership is not only a function, it’s a practice. Leaders set the tone in organizations that aim to be inclusive. All employees should have a role in the effort, but leaders have a particular role to play. Diversity leaders challenge outdated or ineffective practices. They inspire a shared vision. They encourage and enable others to act. They set examples for others through their actions.

They “encourage the heart”.

Leaders are Interculturally Competent When They Are:

  • Open to sharing their knowledge to help others.
  • Comfortable admitting that they lack knowledge, allow themselves to be vulnerable and are willing to make mistakes; comfortable with knowing that they don’t know; curious and not afraid of their own curiosity; always learning and challenging themselves; mindful of making assumptions; ask questions; open to feedback from others and invite discussions on diversity and inclusion.

Interculturally Competent Leaders:

  • Go beyond tolerance to embrace inclusion.
  • Make systemic level changes to help the whole organization.
  • Practice transparency and openness in communications, but also respect confidentially.
  • Participate in cultural functions and encourage their teams to participate in PRIDE, Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month, Indigenous Peoples Day, and others.
  • Show commitment to the journey (not just seeing diversity as the flavour of the month).
  • Match their values with their communications.

Interculturally Competent Leaders Produce Tangible Results

When both employee engagement surveys and client feedback surveys rate organizations as highly respectful and inclusive, leaders are doing something right. When employees routinely describe their work environment as respectful and caring, leaders are doing something right.

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