Tag Archives: intercultural leadership

Global Leadership: Fitting in, without giving in

Adapting your leadership style to a different cultural setting can be tough, especially when the new setting demands a style different from how you would normally and comfortably behave at home. So how do you adapt your leadership behavior across cultures without losing yourself in the process?

Great article: Source: di.dk

It is not always wise to follow the advice : “In Rome do like Romans do ” because you are not a Roman and therefore the expectations people have about you are conditioned by their own bias and stereotypes and what they think about your culture.

Global dexterity is the capacity to adapt your behavior, when necessary, in a foreign cultural environment to accommodate new and different expectations that vary from those of your native cultural setting.

Watch also the interview of Andy Molinsky, Author of “Global Dexterity” :https://hbr.org/video/2363497345001/reaching-across-cultures-without-losing-yourself

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

How Do You Develop Global Leaders ?


In the article ‘Global Mindset Secrets of Superstar Expats” published  by Thunderbird School of Global Management, the authors argue that immersing executives in different cultures does not produce effective global leaders as they often fail to learn how to deal with the complexities of their work environment.

To lead is to be able to influence people who are not thinking and behaving like you. In my experience learning to lead across cultures is a mix of formal leadership development training aligned with corporate values and multiple international assignments in places with very different cultural values and dimensions (https://zestnzen.wordpress.com/tag/cultural-dimensions/ )

I challenge the concept of “‘global mindset” as it is often interpreted as an “ethnocentric” way of doing business aka “western”. You can have all the attributes listed in this article and fail to adapt your leadership style to one specific country. Applying participating leadership and asking employees to take initiatives doesn’t work well in Russia for example, while Americans appreciate leaders who grant autonomy and delegate authority to subordinates.

Successful leaders in developed economies are different from successful leaders in emerging economies.

In a Forbes’ article,  How Does Leadership Vary Across the Globe? results of a  study show that it is important to adapt leadership style to a specific culture and not try to apply  “Americanized” management principles. The skills set and competencies of leaders in different countries vary.

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Project (GLOBE) is an international group of social scientists and management scholars who study cross-cultural leadership. According to GLOBE researchers, leader effectiveness is contextual, that is, it is embedded in the societal and organizational norms, values, and beliefs of the people being led. In other words, to be seen as effective, the time-tested adage continues to apply: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

To gauge leader effectiveness across cultures, GLOBE researchers empirically
established nine cultural dimensions (adapted from work of Hofstede) to capture the similarities
and/or differences in norms, values, beliefs –and practices—among societies. The cultural dimensions can be used in intercultural leadership training.

Related Articles: 

Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

Culture at Work: The value of intercultural skills in the workplace —A survey conducted by the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs, of HR managers at 367 large employers…Posted on 2013/03/20 by Dianne Hofner Saphiere. See full article on blog.culturaldetective.com

Intercultural skills are crucial in the development of businesses internationally. However it is often difficult to identify employees who have the right combination of skills. Most HR managers of large multinational companies think that intercultural communication skills are beneficial to keep good reputation, build trust with overseas clients and partners, increase productivity and increase sales

The top 3 most important skills valued by employers are :

If self-training through international assignments and working in multicultural projects are encouraged, employers are also expecting that educational institutions do more to equip students with intercultural skills.

Russia was not mentioned in this study but with the fast-changing pace of the economy, it is clear that there is the same need for more formal education on intercultural skills by education providers such as:

  • Teaching communication skills
  • Offering foreign language classes
  • Availability of opportunities for students to gain international experience
  • Development of international research partnerships.

Based on my experience, not only basic rules or cultural etiquette need to be learned in context but the ability to develop strong bonds on a personal level needs emphasis too.

Cross-cultural programs should not be dissociated from corporate culture but instead used to create a “third culture” so that all employees globally feel they share the same values.

If you look at companies such as Starbucks, not only the customer experience is the same everywhere but the corporate values too.

Read more about Starbucks here : What To Learn From A Brand That Is Trusted Globally?

What Do You Think Of Intercultural Programs Offered in Your country By Universities and Business Schools ?

How To Understand Cross-Cultural Communication ?

This blog has been inspired by an article published  by Rana Sinha How to understand cross-cultural analysis?. I have summarized Rana’s key ideas and added my own sources of information

Origins and Evolution of Cross-cultural Communication.

 Typically anthropologists and social scientists tend to study people and human behavior among exotic tribes and cultures living in far off places rather than do field work among white-collared literate adults in modern cities. Advances in communication and technology and socio-political changes started transforming the modern workplace yet there were no guidelines based on research to help people interact with other people from other cultures. To address this gap arose the discipline of cross-cultural analysis or cross-cultural communication. The main theories of cross-cultural communication draw from the fields of anthropology, sociology, communication and psychology and are based on value differences among cultures. Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede, Fons Trompenaars, Shalom Schwartz and Clifford Geertz are some of the major contributors in this field.

[The popular ‘Iceberg model’ of culture developed by Selfridge and Sokolik, 1975 and W.L. French and C.H. Bell in 1979, identifies a visible area consisting of behaviour or clothing or symbols and artifacts of some form and a level of values or an invisible level.]

What is culture ?

 A simpler definition is ‘the unwritten rules of the social game’.

Generally culture can be seen as consisting of three elements:

  • Values – Values are ideas that tell what in life is considered important.
  • Norms – Norms consists of expectations of how people should behave in different situations.
  • Artefacts – Things or material culture – reflects the culture’s values and norms but are tangible and manufactured by man.

Most of people working with cross-cultural communication and intercultural training and coaching  have heard about the Five  Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions (http://www.geert-hofstede.com/).

Geert Hofstede defines culture as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another”. The “category” can refer to nations, regions within or across nations, ethnicities, religions, occupations, organizations, or the genders.

What Are The Five Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions ?

  1. Power Distance : Measures inequality
  2. Individualism: is the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups
  3. Uncertainty Avoidance : indicates to what extent people  feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations.
  4. Masculinity/Feminity: Masculinity versus femininity, refers to the distribution of emotional roles between the genders
  5. Long-Term Orientation: Long term oriented societies foster pragmatic virtues oriented towards future rewards, in particular saving, persistence, and adapting to changing circumstances. Short-term oriented societies foster virtues related to the past and present such as national pride, respect for tradition, preservation of “face”,  and fulfilling social obligations.

What about the 5 Cultural Dimensions For the USA? 

If we explore the US culture through the lens of the 5-D Model, we can get a good overview of the deep drivers of American culture relative to other world cultures.

Power distance: The United States score low on this dimension (40)  this translates the focus on equal rights in all aspects of American society and government. Within American organizations superiors are always accessible and managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise.  Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently.  At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative.

Individualism: The United States, with a score of 91 on this dimension, is a highly individualistic culture.Individual freedom  is the most basic value that all Americans share. Individuals have control over their own destiny and they want to have free choices on every topics. Personal success is priority number one. Americans are expected to take initiative regarding education, employment, personal development or well-being. As a consequence, Americans are assertive and straightforward while interacting with others and sometimes labelled as arrogant by other cultures who value group interests over individual success. In the business world, employees are expected to be self-reliant and display initiative.  Also, within the exchange-based world of work, hiring and promotion decisions are based on merit or evidence of what one has done or can do.

Masculinity/Feminity: The United States score 62 on this dimension and is considered a “masculine” society driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the “winner” or “best-in-the-field.” This value system starts in school and continues throughout one’s life – both in work and leisure pursuits.
There are strong shared values that people should “strive to be the best they can be” and that “the winner takes all”. As a result, Americans will tend to display and talk freely about their “successes” and achievements in life, here again, another basis for hiring and promotion decisions in the workplace. Typically, Americans “live to work” so that they can earn monetary rewards and obtain higher status based on how good one can be.  Conflicts are resolved at the individual level and the goal is to win.

Uncertainty avoidance: The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? The US scores 46 on this dimension and therefore, American society is what one would describe as “uncertainty accepting.” Consequently, there is a larger degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices, or foodstuffs.  Americans tend to be more tolerant of ideas or opinions from anyone and allow the freedom of expression.  At the same time, Americans do not require a lot of rules and are less emotionally expressive than higher-scoring cultures.

Long-term orientation: The United States scores 29 on this dimension and is a short-term oriented culture.  American businesses measure their performance on a short-term basis, with profit and loss statements being issued on a quarterly basis.  This also drives individuals to strive for quick results within the work place.  There is also a need to have the “absolute truth” in all matters.

How France Compares with the US ?

Power distance: In France, hierarchy is needed the superiors may have privileges and are often inaccessible. The power is highly centralized in France. In management, the attitude towards managers is more formal, the information flow is hierarchical. The way information is controlled is even associated with power, therefore unequally distributed.  

Individualism: France scores high on the individualistic index but lower than the U.S.  This means that the French favor individual and private opinions, taking care of themselves and immediate family rather than belonging to a group. In the work environment, the relationship with work is contract based, the focus is on the task and autonomy is favored. The communication is direct  but much less than in the U.S.

Masculinity/Feminity With 43, France is a relatively Feminine country and so very different from the U.S.With its famous welfare system (securité sociale), their 35 working hours/week and 5 weeks holidays per year, France cares for its quality of life and focuses more on work in order to live than the reverse. Competition amongst work colleagues is usually not favored. Material signs of success, especially flashy ones, should not be too visible.

Uncertainty Avoidance: France has one the highest scores on the Uncertainty Avoidance Index. Certainty is reached through academic work and concepts. Teachings and trainings are more inductive. In management structure, rules and security are welcome and if lacking, it creates stress. Therefore planning is favored, some level of expertise welcome, when change policies on the other hand are considered stressful.

Long-term orientation: At 39 France is a short-term oriented society. This means a great respect for tradition as well as a need for norms and absolute truth as guidelines. In terms of business this short-term orientation focuses on quick results. Consumption is driven by immediate gratification, sensitivity to social trends and rituals.

Managing and organizational culture

Managing international business means handling both national and organization culture differences at the same time. Common organization cultures across borders are what holds multinationals together.The cultural differences between nations are especially found on the deepest level; i.e. on the level of values. In comparison, cultural differences among organisations are especially identified on the level of practices. Practices are more tangible than values. Organisational Culture can be defined as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one organisation from others”

Read more about building third culture teams: https://zestnzen.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/how-to-lead-highly-effective-third-culture-teams/

Aims of cross-cultural analysis

Cross-cultural communication or inter cultural communication looks at how people from different cultural backgrounds try to communicate. It also tries to produce some guidelines, which help people from different cultures to better communicate with each other. Culture has an interpretative function for the members of a group, which share that particular culture. Although all members of a group or society might share their culture, expressions of culture-resultant behavior are modified by the individuals’ personality, upbringing and life-experience to a considerable degree. Cross-cultural analysis aims at harnessing this utilitarian function of culture as a tool for increasing human adaptation and improving communication.

Cross-cultural management is seen as a discipline of international management focusing on cultural encounters, which aims to discover tools to handle cultural differences seen as sources of conflict or miss-communication.

Beside Geert’s model, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997) model expands the core level of the very basic two-layered model, rather than the outer level. In their view, culture is made up of basic assumptions at the core level. These ‘basic assumptions’ are somewhat similar to ‘values’ in the Hofstede model. Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner use seven dimensions for their model of culture:

    • Universalism vs Particularism (what is more important – rules or relationships?)
    • Individualism vs Communitarianism (do we function in a group or as an individual?)
    • Neutral vs Emotional (do we display our emotions or keep them in check?)
    • Specific vs Diffuse (how far do we get involved?)
    • Achievement vs Ascription (do we have to prove ourselves to gain status or is it given to us just because we are a part of a structure?)
    • Attitude to Time
      • Past- / present- / future-orientatedness
      • Sequential time vs Synchronic time(do we do things one at a time or several things at once?)
    • Internal vs External Orientation (do we aim to control our environment or cooperate with it?)

Criticism of current models

One of the weaknesses of cross-cultural analysis has been the inability to transcend the tendency to equalize culture with the concept of the nation state. A nation state is a political unit consisting of an autonomous state inhabited predominantly by a people sharing a common culture, history, and language or languages. In real life, cultures do not have strict physical boundaries and borders like nation states. Its expression and even core beliefs can assume many permutations and combinations as we move across distances.

There is some criticism in the field that this approach is out of phase with global business today, with transnational companies facing the challenges of the management of global knowledge networks and multicultural project teams, interacting and collaborating across boundaries using new communication technologies.

Some writers like Nigel Holden (2001) suggest an alternative approach, which acknowledges the growing complexity of inter- and intra-organizational connections and identities, and offers theoretical concepts to think about org

Do You Work Too Hard ? Some Cultural Perspectives

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Do you think that the number of hours you spend at work is related to well-being , happiness and better health ?

I came across an article from us.cnn.com comparing the number of hours spent on work and well-being, putting in parallel the American and European working habits as well as regulations. The conclusion of the article is that Americans are intrinsically workaholics and  have much more problems to get a healthy work-life balance than Europeans. Source: America can learn from Europe on work-life balance.

I think the article is a bit idealistic about work conditions in Europe, especially for global executives. In France for example despite the official 35 working hours per week regulation, 10 weeks paid maternity leave and 5 to 8 weeks vacation, managers and executives often work more than 40-45 hours per week,  get high peer pressure to stay late at work until 8:00 or 8:30pm and are available 24/7 to work through mobile technologies like Blackberries including on vacation. So corporate culture is often more important than cross-cultural perception on work-life balance.


This is the result of globalization and international executives do not benefit much from local working regulations regardless where they officially live.


How much you earn has also an impact on your job satisfaction. If you work less and get less paid you might not be able to pay for child care for example or as two working parents you may pay too much taxes, forcing one parent to quit job. This is often the case in Germany or Sweden for example. So you may end up becoming a miserable stay-at home parent because you did not really choose to be one.

Although I agree that not taking enough rest is killing productivity and may increase health problems, I think you have to make a distinction between quantity and quality.

If you really love what you do and are in a state of mind called “flow” then the number of hours you work is not related to stress. If you are in a working place where your boss is micromanaging or bullying you and you get upset or resentful then you have high level of stress and higher probability to become sick and each additional hour is increasing your pain.

The concept of “flow” or “optimal experience” has been introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a psychologist making connections between satisfaction and daily activities in his book: ” Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience“. Do you know how to recognize the state of “flow” ? Usually you are so engaged by what you do that you ignore the time you spend on a particular activity, you are intrinsically rewarded by what you do and truly happy. Seems simple isn’t it ?  So why do you think you work too hard then ?

Maybe you think you work too hard because you are in the wrong job ?

I suggest you spend some time to figure out what is good for YOU, what makes you truly happy ? Maybe you need to change your work environment and align what you do with  who you really are and your life purpose rather than focusing on the number of hours you work.

Do you think you have no choice ?

Well think again, in each situation you have choices ! Yes you do !   I am absolutely convinced that thinking that you have no choice is  giving you much more stress than working long hours on something you chose to do.

So do you think you work too hard because you have no choice or because you are in the wrong job ?

Please share your  opinion and experience :

  • When did you feel the most miserable at work, why ? 
  • How did you change your situation.? 
  • Do you think  money too is related to happiness at work ?
  • Your general thoughts about job happiness and cultures ?


Related articles

Cross-Cultural Non Verbal Communication

Jumping Group

Because we live in a shrinking global village, more and more people from different cultures are interacting with each other so  it is important to learn appropriate gestures and non verbal communication  to avoid conflicts or international  business negotiation failures.

Here two videos with great examples about Multicultural Manners in general and Multicultural Manners at Work

More than ever before,  multicultural companies and organizations need to be educated and trained to the subtleties of non verbal communication, including potentially powerful gestures and even silence. Nonverbal communication is determined by our sociocultural environment. Some cultural differences relate to body language, body space, body touch and paralanguage.

The 93%/7% rule

Many people affirm that human communication consists of 93 % of non-verbal behavior and paralanguage and only 7%  from words. I don’t say it is not true but most people who quote those numbers do not know where they come from.  It is Albert Mehrabian‘s work done in the 1960s that is the source of these statistics but he later stated that this is a misunderstanding of his findings ! It seems to me that more recent studies should be used as references in human communication in today’s trainings, presentations or articles.

In conclusion:

Although many people are aware of non verbal communication few scientific studies have been done in multicultural contexts. In many popular American shows, “experts” tell how to find signs that somebody is lying such as not looking straight in the eyes but what  might be valid in the US culture  may be considered very rude by people coming from other cultures.

In addition, with the global use of new technologies  like video cameras on PCs , SMS and  other mini blogging sites such as  Twitter,  research must be conducted on how those tools affect virtual  cross-cultural communication and what the impact of non face-to-face body language.

Related : Working across Cultures: the Challenges of Virtual Communication

How to Develop Cultural Intelligence? Intercultural Dimensions


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With the world becoming increasingly global and connected, it is importance to develop Cultural Intelligence (CQ) not only for expat managers at work but also in life for your spouse and children. The cultural intelligence is a person’s capability to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity. CQ is a critical capability that enhances employee, manager, and organizational effectiveness. It also enhances interpersonal interactions in a wide range of social contexts.

Most of people working with cross-cultural communication and intercultural training and coaching  have heard about the Five  Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions (http://www.geert-hofstede.com/)

Geert Hofstede defines culture as:

  1. The first, most common, meaning  is “civilization”, including education, manners, arts and crafts and their products.
  2. The second meaning refers to the way people think, feel,  and act.

Geert has defined it as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another”. The “category” can refer to nations, regions within or across nations, ethnicities, religions, occupations, organizations, or the genders. A simpler definition is ‘the unwritten rules of the social game’.

What Are The Five Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions ?

Professor Hofstede’s five intercultural dimensions are (http://www.geerthofstede.nl/culture/dimensions-of-national-cultures.aspx)

  1. Power Distance : Measures inequality
  2. Individualism: is the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups
  3. Uncertainty Avoidance : indicates to what extent people  feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations.
  4. Masculinity: Masculinity versus femininity, refers to the distribution of emotional roles between the genders
  5. Long-Term Orientation: Long term oriented societies foster pragmatic virtues oriented towards future rewards, in particular saving, persistence, and adapting to changing circumstances. Short-term oriented societies foster virtues related to the past and present such as national pride, respect for tradition, preservation of “face”,  and fulfilling social obligations.


I think it is important to understand that the tool developed by Hofstede  is just a support that can be used to stimulate questions and help people from different cultures to share information and discuss about meta-communication (communication about the communication process). It is not a way to  judge, there are  no good or bad intercultural dimensions. The tool may increase awareness about our own culture and others and therefore helps to identify specific skills needed for  candidates for expatriation or identify skills to develop.

Use this tool  to compare two countries: for example your home culture with your host culture: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php

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