In the increasingly diverse workforce of the twenty-first century, few skills are more important for a business leader to possess than cross-cultural leadership acumen. In this arena, I believe that I have developed quite a few capabilities. For one, I consider myself to be a highly empathetic individual, and the ability to empathize with others is at the heart of all cross-cultural communication (Martin, 2014). Secondly, I have always possessed a profound interest in the etiquette practices and cultural mannerisms of people who are from cultures different than that of my own. Some of my friends and family members have even referred to me as an “armchair anthropologist.” While these are traits and capabilities that I have developed over the course of a lifetime, I believe that I will continue to carry them with me into my future career, and be able to make a change for the better in whatever organization I work for as a cross-cultural leader. Admittedly, there remain some areas where I can work to improve my cross-cultural sensitivity—which, honestly, I think could be said about everyone (Fine, 1996)—and I will strive to improve through continual self-examination and reflection.
As for anecdotal evidence of my cross-cultural leadership acumen, I once lived in a very culturally diverse neighborhood, which forced me to sharpen my awareness of the practices of peoples from other cultures, and to also develop tolerance for actions that I considered strange or offensive. It seems to me that the reason many people do not develop cross-cultural sensitivity is because they are afraid, and so they do not make the effort to try to get to know people from cultures other than their own (Mor Barak, 2000). However, it has been my experience that once one overcomes this fear barrier, and simply talks to people, one will discover that there are far more similarities than differences (Mateescu, 2015). Furthermore, in befriending individuals from other cultures, one’s life will be all the richer for having had the experience.
With regards to mentors in the arena of cross-cultural leadership, I cannot pinpoint any one individual; however, looking back, I credit several teachers I had through elementary and high school for giving me good advice about dealing with individuals from other cultures. Also, many of the teachers I had throughout my childhood and adolescence made it a priority to expose my fellow classmates and me to diverse cultures, and teach us about the history and societies of different nations. Without this classroom exposure to diverse cultures, I am not so sure that I would have done as well as I did in the multicultural neighborhood in which I briefly resided.
While I consider myself to be an unusually sensitive person with regard to cultural diversity, and its management in the workplace, I will admit that there are several areas in which I could improve. For one, I sometimes fall victim to belief in crass stereotypes about people from other cultures. Often, this occurs whenever I have never personally encountered an individual belonging to that culture, and it is usually cleared up very quickly when I finally meet a person of the stereotyped culture in question. Additionally, I occasionally make insensitive, non-politically correct jokes, which is a major character flaw that I will have to work on as I continue to grow and progress. Such behavior is never appropriate in the workplace, and even worse, many people find it offensive, or it hurts their feelings. However, I believe that I am off to a good start in my path to becoming a cross-cultural leader in whatever organization I will end up working for, and improvements can always be made.
- Fine, M.G. (1996). “Cultural diversity in the workplace: The state of the field.” The Journal of Business Communication 33 (4), 485.
- Martin, G.C. (2014). “The Effects of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace.” Journal of Diversity Management 9 (2), 89.
- Mateescu, V.M. (2015). “Perspectives on Diversity Management at Workplace. The European SME’s Case.” On-line Journal Modelling the New Europe 16, 80-92.
- Mor Barak, M.E. (2000). “The inclusive workplace: An ecosystem approach to diversity management.” Social Work 45 (4), 339-53.