5 Tips to be a Successful Intercultural Leader

Globalization trends make it extremely likely that business leaders will need experience managing intercultural teams at some point. Working with people from different cultures, norms, and values has become common within most organizations. People and businesses are communicating virtually across regions that have never been accessible before, and although these new connections open up a world of opportunity, they also come with challenges.  Intercultural communication can be complex, but there are methods that you can put in place to help manage your company’s growing interaction with diverse cultures.

Intercultural Leadership

Here are five tips for successful intercultural communication:

  1. Adaptive Behavior

It’s no secret that one of the most valuable skills a leader can have is the ability to adapt your approach to fit each situation. Scenarios involving diverse cultures may require even more flexibility, as the people you are interacting with vary greatly in their personal and professional understandings. For example, you may be motivated by learning new skills and working with people you consider friends, while others may be motivated by financial achievement or moving up in the company. If you were to apply your motivators to them with your leadership style, you could negatively impact their motivation and create a disconnect.

  1. Action then Modification

When faced with a situation that you are unsure of, don’t just think about it. Act, then change your approach if necessary. Ask questions and follow up on your actions to decide how you can tweak your approach. For example, an American manager gives feedback to a Japanese team in a direct style indicative of his culture, but to his team, it feels like a slap in the face. The manager could observe his team’s reaction and alter his feedback to be subtler and more indirect, while still getting his point across.

  1. Open-mindedness

You make decisions based on your culture, but others will make different decisions based on theirs. Take the time to try to understand others’ decisions based on their experiences. Even a quick Google search can help you gain more cultural competence and understand a culture other than your own a little better. This can help you adapt your mindset and actions accordingly.

  1. Embrace the Unknown

Get used to being uncomfortable and recognize new and puzzling situations as an opportunity for growth. Try to put yourself in new situations on a regular basis, so you become more comfortable dealing with things you aren’t accustomed to.

  1. Use Cultural Tendencies with Caution

There are many cultural tendencies that will affect your contact with others in the workplace. Everyone is different, and it is important to use cultural tendencies as a guideline, not a rule. For example, in High-Context cultures such as Asian and Arab cultures, communication tends to be understated and indirect and leave meaning to be read in between the lines. In lower-context cultures such as German and American culture, communication tends to be precise, explicit and direct. Be able to differentiate between these cultural tendencies and remember that cultural tendencies are a spectrum – not confined to just high or low context but anywhere in between.

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