Global6 – Assessing Leadership in a Global Context – Part 1

What is considered good leadership practice  in Germany may not be considered good leadership in Japan or may need some modifications when dealing with US Americans.  Intercultural differences have been the subject of much study since the 1950s.  I have always been fascinated by the insights derived from these studies given that I am thoroughly multicultural person myself.

As an aside – I was born in Panama, raised in Mexico, and studied in the US and Germany. My mother’s side of the family is French, my father’s US American. I have worked in Mexico, US, France, Belgium and Germany.  My work as a strategy and leadership consultant over the past twenty years has taken me to – at latest count – 30 different countries.  I truly think of myself as a World Citizen.

My first encounter with the intercultural literature was reading Edward T Hall – considered the founding father of intercultural communication as an academic field of study.  During the 1950s he worked for the US State Department,  teaching inter-cultural communications skills to foreign service personnel.  He came up with the concept of low-context versus high-context cultures – a concept still much in use today.  Low-context cultures such as the Germanic culture transmit information explicitly – i.e. through language and tangible information.  High-context cultures such as the Japanese culture transmit messages implicitly – the context, the body language and other non-verbal clues provide the information.  A spoken ‘Yes’ does not necessarily mean ‘Yes’ – it depends on the context.

The Three H’s of Intercultural Communication – Hall, Hofstede and House

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Obviously leadership in these very different cultural environments needs to take on different forms.  Ever since Edward T. Hall various further attempts have been made to codify the differences between cultures.  As our economy has become more global, understanding how to navigate in these diverse waters and currents of culture has received increasing attention from both public and private sector leaders.

In the 1970’s Geert Hofstede significantly expanded the framework from which to look at different national and organizational cultures.  Using survey data from over 100.000 individuals from over 40 countries, he developed a model composed of 5 different dimensions of culture.  It was a great honor in the year 2004 to have Geert Hofstede talk at a Forum which was organized by my colleague Ted Baartmans and me in Maastricht.

This work has been continued through further studies.  The most recent and comprehensive being the GLOBE Study led by Robert House, professor at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania.  The GLOBE study included 170 countries and established 9 cultural dimensions.  I was also very fortunate to be present in London in 2011 when he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association.

Yet despite all of this information, how can business leaders truly know how to change and adapt their style globally?

This week I had the privilege to be one of  the first people to be certified in the brand new 360° instrument – Global 6 created by the Center for Creative Leadership. It is the first instrument I am aware of that provides business leaders with practical information directly from the people they work with.   It gives them pragmatic advice on how they need to adapt their leadership style globally.  In my next blog I will explain how this instrument works.

If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse gift will find a fitting place.”  Margaret Mead

Leadership Conference in Berlin – the story of its evolution

Berlin from June 13 to June 15 will be the location of a major leadership conference. The conference is taking place in a historical venue – the former East German State Council Building – the building which was the official seat of the East German government. The conference theme is the task of leading across generations.

The conference promises to be very special. The welcome speaker to the conference will be Michael Diekmann – the chairman and CEO of Allianz – one of the largest insurance companies in the world. The list of speakers and attendees to this conference will make it one of the most important in Europe on this topic this year.

I will speak more about the conference in future blog posts. Today I would like to talk about my involvement in making this conference happen.

Back in 2001, I attended a conference of the International Leadership Association (ILA) in Miami, Florida. I remember being quite puzzled as to why this association was calling itself international. I was one of 4 people at that conference that lived outside of the United States.

But the association had large aspirations and before I knew it, the President of ILA – Cynthia Cherrey convinced me to head up an effort to organize the first global ILA conference in Europe. Along with Ted Baartmans who also attended the Miami conference, I helped to organize an international leadership conference in Amsterdam in 2005. Since then, I have played a role in organizing conferences in Prague (2009) and London (2011).

The ILA has come a long way since then. It is truly international with over 2500 members. As such it is the largest association in the world dealing with the topic of leadership. I have been a board member of the ILA since 2003.

The Berlin conference represents a new service offering for the ILA. Previous global conferences have been dedicated to leadership in general. The Berlin conference is dedicated to a specific leadership topic. Berlin does not replace the global conference but compliments it. ILA’s global conference which has been a continuing success will this year be in Denver. Over 1000 participants are expected to attend the Denver conference.

After the 2009 global conference in Prague, I travelled throughout Europe looking for partners for ILA with the specific intent of creating topical conferences. Through the various discussions, I connected with the European School of Management and Technology. The first discussions began in early 2010. ESMT has developed over the past four years a conference series known as the ESMT Annual Forum. In these conferences, many topics of the school were highlighted to alumni and friends of the school.  Through the partnership with the ILA, ESMT sees an opportunity to really focus the conference on leadership and make it an international event.

I have been working with Professor Konstantin Korotov of ESMT on the conference content and design. A truly cooperative effort has emerged between the two organizations with project teams in Berlin and Maryland contributing to a new look, feel and structure to this newest of ILA conference offerings. I am proud to have helped bring this type of conference into the world.

Workers of the World Unite

“With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes satin. With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.” Chinese Proverb