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July 2014

Last week, I was in the mountains of Utah, USA working with a client on a global leadership development program. It is a 9-month program that has week long intensives every 3 months.  Week 1 is held in China, week 2 in the USA and week 3 is in Sweden. At the conclusion of week 3 action learning groups present their final projects to the executive team.

I am always impressed at the commitment that this organisation has toward developing and supporting its leaders.  This particular program has been in existence for the past 12 years and has been through a number of iterations.  The success of the program can be witnessed in terms of the organisations talent pipeline, product innovations, business growth and their ability to navigate the business vagaries of their industry while operating in 40 countries with 56,000 employees.

One of the pre-course assignments for week 2 was the requirement for all participants to present a summary of a leadership book. The participants in the current program came from 12 different countries. It was fascinating to observe that most of the participants presented a leadership book from their own cultural background, thus we had summaries of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Romanian, French, German, Italian and of course American literature.

The majority of leadership literature, research and theory stems from the U.S.  Mostly this American literature is very good, though sometimes not easily applicable in different cultural contexts. Observing these summaries made me reflect on CILT � Culturally Implicit Leadership Theory.  CILT states that people in different cultures have a view on what constitutes �good leadership�; hence what constitutes a �good� leader in one culture could be considered a �poor� leader in another.

Navigating through what culturally constitutes good leadership can be a minefield. Global leadership programs serve as an invaluable reminder of the challenges that leaders face often on a daily basis and provide an opportunity to take some time to reflect and appreciate these challenges. Decision making, motivating staff, accountability, planning, strategising, communicating, knowing when to have a hands-on and hands-off approach, managing the performance of individuals and traversing the operational processes are just some examples of the complexity involved in global leadership.  Let�s not also forget another essential requirement, which is to align people located in different regions to the organizational vision and values.

One of the key action learning items on this particular program was the importance of having conversations with team members, particularly those located in different countries.  These conversations with local teams allow leaders to better understand the different leadership perspectives and expectations that teams and individuals may have from particular cultures. This then assists leaders to communicate, manage and behave in a culturally appropriate manner that should be reflected in team performance and results.

A further support for global leaders is an Executive Coach or trusted individual who can act as a sounding board.  This support can be invaluable in terms of testing assumptions, expectations and perceptions. This is useful in terms of how particular messages can be developed, delivered and received, thus establishing culturally appropriate and effective leadership styles.


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Best Wishes
Tom Verghese

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I picked this book up this interactive workbook at the airport recently.  �How Successful People Think� is a book that you can dip in and out of if you don�t have time to read it from cover to cover.

The workbook is full of interactive questions and space for readers to provide answers, as well as new material for readers to assess their current thinking. It guides readers in applying the lessons that they have learned.

Maxwell based �How Successful People Think� on his studies and analysis of successful people and how they think.  The premise being that the key to success is in the thought processes - how we think.

The book discusses 11 different types of thinking processes that good thinkers exhibit and provides practical suggestions of how these techniques can be learned.  He talks about big picture thinkers, to creative and possibility thinkers to bottom-line thinkers, what they entail and how to master these skills. 

One of the appeals that this had for me were his discussions around working with ambiguity, in unfamiliar terrains and the importance of listening, as these are all attributes of cultural intelligence.  The workbook is a great follow on that provides some challenging questions and an opportunity to engage in a series of exercises and critical thinking.

How Successful People Think: Change your Thinking, Change Your Life." By John C Maxwell (2009).

'Raising Your Cultural IQ - DVD and CD

'Raising Your Cultural IQ' explores the issues around culture, the challenges that culture can pose and provides some great strategies on how to leverage on cultural differences and similarities.


'The Invisible Elephant - Exploring Cultural Awareness'
2nd Edition by Tom Verghese

Many aspects of culture are invisible, yet culture has an enormous impact on our lives. Like an Invisible Elephant, if ignored these aspects can lead to misunderstanding, stress and conflict. Alternatively, if attention is given to the Invisible Elephant, it can enhance productivity, improve teamwork and create more joy in our lives.

Book testimonial by Asma Ghabshi
Learning And Development Manager, Shell Oman:

"The Invisible Elephant made my perspective of my national culture in comparison to my personal culture more visible. It has given me a deep insight into dealing with people of different cultural backgrounds."

'Pillars of Growth - Strategies for Leading Sustainable Growth' - Book by Tom Verghese, Kerry Larkan, Steven Howard and Brad Tonini
Written with the business leaders and entrepreneurs of Asia in mind, 'Pillars of Growth' provides a road map to assist you in thinking through four critical concerns that impact the sustainable growth of every business.