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The Role of Cultural Intelligence in Effective Leadership Essay

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Over the years, business companies and society in general have increasingly housed different people from all over the world, each bringing to the table his or her own culture. As a consequence, the need for effective social skills and cultural sensitivity has been highlighted, especially for managers as part of the complete leadership package. What is Cultural Intelligence? Traditionally, intelligence is defined as simply being able to correctly answer questions in a test. However, experts say that intelligence encompasses more aspects which build an individual’s personality, and this includes cultural intelligence (Earley, 2003, p.


Before we define what cultural intelligence is, let us first understand the meaning of culture. Peterson (2004) defines culture as “the relatively set of minor values and beliefs generally held by groups of people in countries or regions and the noticeable impact those values and beliefs have on the people’s outward behaviors and environment” (p. 17). Given this definition, we can clearly say that managing and capitalizing on different cultures to drive business to profitability entails a very solid leadership team.

Management literature offers a number of working definitions of cultural intelligence or CQ.

For instance, Earley and Ang (2003) define CQ as: A person’s capability for successful adaptation to new cultural settings, that is, for unfamiliar settings attributable to cultural context and consists of cognitive, motivational and behavioral elements. In managerial contexts, this calls for the ability, among other things, to identify and solve problems sensitively and effectively in cross cultural situations. (p. 9) CQ is also sometimes referred to as the “key competencies that allow us to effectively interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds in all kinds of settings” (Bucher, 2007, p.

7). The Need for Cultural Intelligence in Business The trend nowadays is that companies are seeing an increasingly diverse employee base as they expand to new local and international territories. This, then, necessitates more effective leadership skills set and behaviors to be able to manage the company given the new and often changing global landscape. CQ encompasses both traditional intelligence (IQ), which is required to perform and analyze day-to-day business activities, and emotional intelligence (EQ) which deals primarily with social interactions.

It entails the capacity to decipher, interpret and integrate both rational and emotional behaviors. Business leaders with high CQ more easily and effectively adapt to new environments and deal with people from different countries. (Earley and Ang, 2003, p. 34 – 35). CQ plays an important role in a number of business activities especially when a company is trying to develop a business opportunity in a foreign country or is planning to enter into a joint venture with a foreign partner.

In these cases, a high CQ manager will overcome common impediments such as language and professional mindset to close a potential deal. CQ is also required of a manager who oversees both local and expatriate colleagues. He or she must make sure that they co-exist and work toward a common goal for the company. Sometimes, it is especially challenging to motivate local employees when they see a lot of expatriates who usually have significantly bigger paychecks. In addition, CQ is needed in resolving disputes between or among employees of diverse cultural background.

A good manager knows that some people prefer direct and straightforward confrontation, while others are uncomfortable with this style. Managing relations with foreign stakeholders can likewise be difficult at times, especially with the difference in governance style and structure. However, a manager with high CQ will take into consideration political, corporate or social sensitivities to sustain thriving relationships with the company’s stakeholders. Multi-national companies also face a lot of ethical dilemmas, and dealing with these problems requires high levels of CQ.

Moreover, strategic business activities like setting policies and plans, as well as developing training programs for employees call for managers with high CQ. In both cases, the company should strike a balance between the needs and expectations of both local staff and expatriates. More importantly, CQ impacts a company’s bottom-line issues. Bucher (2007) explains: CQ changes the way employees interact with their customers and clients. As employees develop their CQ megaskills, their ability to assess and understand the cultural context of any social interaction increases.

This, in turn, allows them to increase customer / client satisfaction by building relationships and adapting to the diverse needs of individuals. Even small changes in the range and magnitude of one’s skills can have a profound influence on productivity, and other bottom-line issues. (p. 12) Cultural Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence Emotional intelligence (EQ), like IQ and CQ, contributes to the well-roundedness of a highly-effective manager and business leader. Stening (2006) discusses,

An individual’s success in life (including at work) is determined not just by abilities in respect of a fairly narrow range of mathematics and linguistic skills, but by such things as: knowing their own emotions (self-awareness); managing their emotions (handling their feelings in an appropriate manner); motivating themselves (harnessing their emotions in the interests of goal accomplishment); recognizing emotions in others (having empathy); and handling relationships (being socially – i. e. , behaviorally – competent). (p. 78)

Managers who possess high EQ tend to be more effective motivators and leaders as they recognize the need for open and transparent communications with their staff. Of course, employees more positively respond to a high EQ manager who understands his or her own emotions and let their actions speak louder than mere words than an authoritarian manager. EQ is particularly useful in managing conflicts. A high EQ manager will be in a better position to resolve the conflict calmly since he or she has control over his or her emotions.

In addition, having a high EQ will enable a manager to make wise business decisions because he or she is more stable, would be more open to other people’s suggestions, and can clearly think even under pressure. Moreover, companies with many high EQ managers will be able to retain their competent workforce and survive the tight competition in the market. This is because employees who are made to feel they are an asset to the organization will most likely be more motivated to perform better and be loyal to the company.

How to Enhance Cultural Intelligence Like any other intelligence models, CQ can be developed and enhanced. Some CQ proponents suggest that CQ is developed in three ways: cognitive, physical and motivational. Cognitive refers to learning about your own culture as well as those of other people, and appreciating what cultural diversity is about. Meanwhile, physical means using your body and senses to blend and immerse in a new environment.

Finally, motivational pertains to using your emotions such as in gaining rewards upon achievement of a certain level of success and/or acceptance. (Earley, Ang & Tan, 2010, p. 34) Bucher (2007), on the other hand, suggests developing nine “megaskills” to build CQ, namely (1) understanding my cultural identity; (2) checking cultural lenses; (3) global consciousness; (4) shifting perspectives; (5) intercultural; communication; (6) managing cross-cultural conflict; (7) multi-cultural teaming; (8) dealing with bias; and (9) understanding the dynamics of power.

(p. 10 -11) References Bucher, R. D. (2007). Building Cultural Intelligence (CQ): Nine Megaskills. USA: Prentice Hall. Chin, C. & Gaynier, L. (2006). Global Leadership Competence; A Cultural Intelligence Perspective. Michigan: Lawrence Technical University. Deng, L. , & Gibson, P. (2008). A Qualitative Evaluation on the Role of Cultural Intelligence in Cross-Cultural Leadership Effectiveness. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 3 (2), 181 – 197. Earley, C. P. , Ang, S. (2003).

Cultural Intelligence: Individual Interactions Across Cultures. California: Stanford University Press. Earley, C. P. , Ang. S. , & Tan, J. (2010). CQ: Developing Cultural Intelligence at Work. California: Stanford Business Books. Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice. USA: Basic Books. Goleman, D. (2005). Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ. New York: Bantam Dell. Goleman, D. , McKee, A. , & Boyatzis, R. (2002). Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of

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