By Manie Bosman
Fifty years ago, in many countries, cultural diversity in the workplace probably referred to a handful of employees speaking with a slight accent who preferred to have home-cooked soup in a flask instead of a burger and chips from the cafeteria. In some countries, such as South Africa, the diversity was a little more acute, but still fairly easy to manage as employees were either “white” (with a Euro-African culture) or “black” (with a traditional African culture). However, this picture became considerably more complex in the last two or three decades as globalization saw international borders opening up and national economies becoming more interlinked – turning Marshall McLuhan’s envisioned “Global Village” into a reality.
Once a concept often described by academics in somewhat abstract terms such as “the worldwide trend of economic integration across borders that allows businesses to expand beyond their domestic boundaries”,1 globalization has now become a reality even in the most remote parts of the world. I doubt if there is a town, village or settlement anywhere in the world that is not somehow connected to the rest of the globe via internet, mobile phone or at least satellite phone. As a result people, money, goods and information are moving or being moved across national and international borders like never before in human history. This global transformation is having a profound impact on just about every level of human existence ranging from the Zulu boy in the Tugela valley learning a few words of Mandarin to converse with the local Chinese shop owner to the Iranian housewife watching the latest episodes of “Days of Our Lives” and ‘The Young and the Restless’ on the internet.
However, while it’s clear that hardly anyone is unaffected by globalization, it is probably in the field of leadership that organizations, companies and governments face the greatest challenges. Gone are the days where skilled managers, proven “best practices” and hard work guaranteed at least some level of success. In a time where everything is constantly changing, effective leadership is needed, and this requires much more than implementing and managing systems and structures. The “Ten C’s” are ten critical leadership skills I believe are needed to successfully navigate through today’s culturally diverse and volatile global landscape:
- Compelling Visionary – Having an inspiring picture of a preferred future and being able to motivate people to pursue that vision .
- Clear Communicator – Being able to communicate effectively across cultural, personal and technological barriers and differences.
- Connected Collaborator – Know how to network, facilitate collaboration and create synergy by developing and harnessing the skills, knowledge and abilities of all stakeholders.
- Continuous Learner – Continuously acquiring new knowledge and learning new skills to stay abreast of change and innovation; and have the ability to create learning systems for others.
- Change Manager – Being flexible and able to adapt to change and uncertainty while helping others to do the same.
- Culturally Intelligent – Understanding how my own culture influence my values, perception and behaviour, and being able to manage these as well as the cultural manifestations of others.
- Cool Facilitator – Having emotional intelligence and people skills to manage and harness own and other people’s emotions, beliefs and feelings and manage conflict in a constructive manner.
- Competent Operator – Having the knowledge and skills required to get the job done, or at least know where to find these.
- Convincing Example – Modelling the values, principles and standards expected from others by setting the example in both word and deed.
- Compassionate Compatriot – Putting people first but without losing sight of the goal.
How do you and your leadership team measure up? Please share your insights and questions or contact me directly for more information.
* Manie Bosman is CEO and primary consultant at the Strategic Leadership Institute in South Africa. For more information on the various leadership development, coaching and corporate training programs offered by SLI or to book him as speaker, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Cullen, J. B., & Parboteeah, K. P. (2008). Multinational management: A strategic approach (4th Ed). Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.