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Cultural Concerns from a Leadership Perspective

 |  4 Min Read

Being a leader can present many challenges in the workplace. These challenges can often arise when a leader is in charge of a department or organization comprised of individuals from different cultures or an international team. It requires effort from all parties in order to make the situation as workable as possible.

Leaders need to understand their own culture, including their own prejudices, biases, and leadership styles. Understanding various cultures can assist in interactions with individuals who operate under a different style or pace. For example, a manager who comes from a military background might expect an organization’s operation to function within tight parameters. However, if the workers come from a more relaxed culture, attempting to impose rigid standards upon them might lead to conflict and tension.


One of the primary cultural concerns leaders sort out is the issue of distrust. People from varied societies may doubt or question cultures they don’t normally collaborate with. In order to manage these misgivings, leaders need to address any concerns and fears head on; they need to do everything in their power to dispel any worries those involved may express.


Leaders working with employees from mixed cultures need to embrace respect and tolerance. While a department head might have an advanced degree, that leader’s training might not have encompassed working with others from a different culture. Some of the methods used in a Master’s program course might not work with employees who come from a world entirely different from the one the department head is used to dealing with.

No matter how different a culture might seem, a good leader must demonstrate respect for all backgrounds or beliefs in order to help defuse any existing cultural tension. While the leader needs to show respect, compliance must also be given by anyone from a different culture towards those in charge. If this doesn’t happen, the leadership structure becomes undermined.

Building Relationships with People from Different Cultures

When interacting with different ethnicities, those in leadership positions might want to work with a mentor or a “culture guide” within the organization. Leaders need to ask questions and listen carefully when the questions are answered. It’s also important to carefully observe the way interactions take place. For example, do employees maintain eye contact when speaking to someone in a position of authority? By observing interactions employees have amongst each other and with management, leaders can get an idea how employees will react in various situations.

Making Mistakes

Any leader knows that mistakes are going to be made. While dealing with different ways of life, there are standards that might seem curious or bizarre to anyone not familiar with them. A good leader is going to treat every mistake made as a learning opportunity. The important thing to remember is to always own a mistake — and to emphasize there was never any ill intent behind the transgression. When a cultural mistake is made, asking for assistance from someone familiar with the culture achieves both the opportunity to gain cultural understanding and to demonstrate a willingness to learn more about a particular culture.

Great Expectations

A leader that works in a multi-cultural area should embrace working in a diverse setting and strive to achieve great things. The first step is to really understand the importance of cultural diversity. Every individual has something to contribute to the organization, and by fostering an atmosphere of learning and sharing, those contributions create something stronger than the sum of its individual parts. However, if a leader doesn’t show an understanding of the value of different cultures, there’s a chance the cultural groups will never grow and learn to collaborate with each other.

Sharing Power

Whether a leader is in charge of a multi-national corporation or is a powerful government figure, sharing power can prove to be a challenge. Leaders who understand group dynamics know that giving power to members from a different cultural mindset is a means of forming partnerships with them. In turn, they can use their influence within their own cultural community to help achieve a leader’s vision. Sharing power means listening to the ideas of others, considering their input, and making decisions based upon their concepts.

Individuals who are considering pursuing a MBA Management Specialization degree at Our Lady of the Lake University Online will have the resources and support available to participate in a program that believes in strong social convictions and beliefs.

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