Cultural Intelligence: The Key to Global Leadership


Our world is becoming more interconnected and influenced by cultural factors. It is becoming increasingly important to have a high IQ (emotional intelligence) and EQ (emotional intelligence). Strong Cultural Intelligence is also a requirement to be successful in today’s global business environment.
Leadership involves communicating a vision to others and encouraging them towards a goal. This is not an easy task across cultures. It can be challenging to identify the qualities that make a leader. Most of the information and research on this topic are US-based. This is because leadership skills tend to be measured in organizational performance, such as productivity and morale. There are two main types of leadership: relationship-oriented and task-oriented. These styles are different for people from different cultures. Leadership quality is also about perception. A leader who is perceived as a leader will be respected, influential, and authoritative. We might even say that leaders’ greatness is determined by their followers. Global leaders who are successful understand the cultural expectations of followers and how they view leadership.

Let’s take a look at three different ways leaders can show cultural intelligence.

1. Building awareness

Leaders who are culturally intelligent are open to learning and eager to learn new skills that will help them succeed. Understanding the expectations and cultural characteristics of followers is vital. These characteristics can include the relationship between leaders and followers, the role of seniority, how problems are dealt with, the attitude towards efficiency, punctuality, and deadlines, as well as the relationships between them and their followers. Tradition often wins over logic, so it is crucial for global leaders to understand the culture and history of their followers. You can do this by forming alliances with leaders from other cultures who can offer different perspectives.

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2. Adapting

Leaders who are culturally intelligent can adapt their leadership style to fit different situations without having to change their leadership style. They can identify whether their followers come from an individualistic or collectivist culture and whether they prefer an autocratic to a bureaucratic setting. This awareness will also help them determine whether they are more motivated by punishments or incentives. Global leaders who are successful spend time with their followers to get to know their comfort levels and to listen to what they have to say.

3. Communicating

Leaders who are culturally competent understand the importance of communicating effectively. It will be easier for them to adapt to the culture of their followers once they have become aware of these attributes. Precise language is essential. This may include deciding how much information must be shared to reach the desired goal and what the rewards and consequences are for followers are. This includes adjusting communication styles to consider whether the follower’s culture exhibits an implicit or explicit communication style.

The three steps below can help leaders increase their cultural intelligence, regardless of whether they are relationship-oriented or task-oriented. Leaders are more likely to succeed if they are aware of the cultural characteristics of their followers and can adapt to the cultural environment. A healthy dose of CQ can be a valuable asset to today’s global leader.