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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Intercultural Leadership: Shaping Organizational Culture

Laurier has a certificate program that has a focus on intercultural effectiveness. I struggle with the idea of getting a certificate to demonstrate intercultural competence but value the framework and examples provided in the training. Perhaps most importantly, the certificate provides an opportunity for dialogue about our background experiences and perceptions.

I think it's time for "intercultural effectiveness 2.0" or "how to lead an organization to be more inter-culturally effective." In other words, we need to do a better job in training individuals AND supporting those in organizational leadership positions so that they may shape the culture of the organization to be more inter-culturally effective.


We certainly live in a more globalized world. This is a reality no matter our philosophical perspective on the "why" or the "what" of our situation. Globalization means that we interact with other cultures on a daily (if not minute-by-minute) basis.

Effective leaders in organizations (businesses, schools, government, hospitals, universities, NGOs, etc) need to consider the inter-cultural workplace since they exert tremendous influence on the climate of an organization.


Many of us think we are sensitive to different cultures. Often, it's not the outlandish examples of stereotyping and discrimination that are an issue for most of us; it is, however, the micro-examples. For example, I might quickly pass over a suggestion from a person of another culture or may "tune out" because I don't think the idea is a valid one.

I'm not talking about sensitivity training. I'm thinking more about unpacking the hidden assumptions, stereotypes, and biases that we ALL have, often unconsciously. Leaders need to engage in this process as much, if not more, as those who work with them.

If you are a leader in an organization of any size, how are you doing with supporting the inter-cultural effectiveness of your organization?
  • Do you (and your staff) have an understanding of different approaches to "transactions" (whether financial or relational)? 
  • How do you practice reciprocity in your relationships? 
  • What new strategies might you be able to employ if you consider the marketplace (of products, ideas, etc) from different cultural perspectives? 
  • Do you engage in deep listening and cultural humility?

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