Globalization can be complex for those leaders who head different organizations. While business opportunities are growing, business context demands new organizational capacities, especially amongst the leaders. Leaders are therefore required to have the necessary skills to adapt to the diverse and changing organizational, national and professional cultures.
However the leaders have to understand the specific competencies that they are required to have in order to be able to acquire and develop these skills. A leader’s primary importance should be his/her understanding of the various cultures in the organization that surrounds him/her. With this understanding the leader sets the base for decision making through which he can utilize the skills and interpret knowledge (Kathleen, 2007).
The ethnocentric knowledge is very vital to any leader who aspires to operate abroad. As a result effective communication remains a key pillar for any business leader in an intercultural environment. Ability to communicate in a clear way is vital for a leader who leads an organization that is inter-culturally composed. Intercultural leaders use their communication theories, skills and practices to motivate others. They are also knowledgeable about the various style differences of communication (James, 2006).
Communication therefore remains a crucial factor in globalization as the various forces pull all cultures into a single business zone. Connection is a key factor if the leaders want to operate in intercultural environments. This entails interacting and engaging themselves with those cultures in whichever country they work. This helps them to work effectively and comfortably with ambiguity. They are able to tolerate differing values systems as well as the contrasting perspectives in enduring and sustaining relationships. Cultural interest is of great necessity to any leader who gets a chance to work in an intercultural environment.
This entails direct experience and exposure to other different cultures such as learning the new languages and participating in the cultural functions of the local people.
To acquire success as a leader in an intercultural environment, a certain level of cognitive, Metacognitive, behavioral intercultural competence and motivational factors are very necessary. These competencies enhance and improve communication amongst the various groups at the same time enhancing interactions amongst these groups.
Being in a position to view problems and situations from the perspective of a different culture enables a leader to develop adequate interaction with people from foreign cultures and qualifies the leader to lead those people in the most effective way. For this to be possible the leader must understand the differences in the values, traditions and the cultural norms of the various cultures and establish the difference from what he/she is used to. The leader must be able to attribute and anticipate the emotional reactions of an employee or an individual from the culture that person comes from (Edith, 2007).
In this regard a leader has to take an action according to the situation at hand and anticipate the other person’s conduct within the social setting of the originality of that specific individual. There are potential barriers to effective communication in an intercultural environment. These barriers may include lack of understanding of the key concepts of the different languages making the different cultures in an organization. This makes a leader blind in many things that concern different individuals in the organization because communication becomes a major problem. Ignorance of the language concepts breaks the communication channels between the leader and the individual workers.
A leader must therefore have the basic understanding of language concepts that surround him in an intercultural environment. Another major barrier to effective communication in an intercultural environment is the lack of interest amongst the leaders to learn, interact and integrate with the various cultural groups with anticipation to learn more on the language dialects which are the basics to effective communication. In this perspective a leader aspiring to work abroad needs to be flexible enough to be able to integrate with the people in the localities of their operations (Richard, 2003).
The Asian and the western cultures are quite different in several aspects such as language, religion, hospitality, art and the mode of doing business. Various countries in the Asian region have different dialects from their neighboring countries. They also depict diverse cultural implications which are observed by people in those regions. Since language is one of the connecting channels through which a person is able to enter into the thinking process of others, it is quite important that a leader from other regions heading an organization in the Asian region get to know how the various aspects of the cultures in this region affect his/her performance (Robert, 1999).
Clothing is another major aspect of culture that is very different in Asian and Western cultures. In the Asian culture various colors of the clothes worn are used to depict a cultural event. A good example is in China where Red is taken as a symbol of good wishes for a coming year and white is worn during the funeral event in the Chinese culture. A leader in an organization must be conversant with these different attires which depict different events so that his/her communication with an individual worker can not conflict with occurrences in the life of such an individual (Sarit, 2007).
Hospitality is another great aspect of business ethics that is highly regarded in the Asian region than in the western region. Asian countries regard visitors with less suspicion and proper care offered to such a visitor. More so this hospitality is extended in carrying out business transactions. Time is not of much concern to the Asian regions businessmen and women than proper communication and treatment for a business visitor or a customer. The Japanese are very hospitable people and they integrate hospitality with business practices.
The interview with a business leader from the western region working in the Asian region revealed that business ethics in the two regions differ greatly especially in the business meetings schedules which are held in different times of the day for various reasons. In the western culture meetings are held in the morning or in the evening to offer a room for people to work. In the Asian region meetings are scheduled any time apart from the time taken reserved for prayers. Another difference originates from the flexibility of the business ethics observed by the two regions. The western business ethics is more flexible than the Asian business ethics because the Asian ethics is coupled with strict religious beliefs which can not be changed easily. Thus integrating new ethics in the organization becomes an uphill task for a leader who comes from the western region to the Asian region. A part of this factors communication also another difference that emanates from the difference in business ethics in the two regions. While in the western region English is smoothly spoken, in the Asian region English is not spoken smoothly and it becomes hard to understand what a person from the Asian region speaks.
A different interview with a manager from the Asian region working in the western region revealed that he experienced difficulties of adjusting from the business ethics he was used to the new ethics he was exposed to. This is because business ethics in the two regions are quite different especially when t comes to work arrangements, respect and time observation. In addition he expressed an experience in the conflict of interests when trying to adapt to different situations including a new work environment. Mode of meeting arrangements, manner of dressing in meetings was also a big challenge to the manager. This is because while the Asian culture for example Indian culture emphasis on a friendly manner of carrying out business transactions western culture emphasis on honesty which creates good relations. The major difference experienced by the manager from the Asian culture was the speed at which business transactions were completed as opposed to the Asian culture where time did not matter so much as long as the transaction was finally completed.
Edith, S. (2007). Intercultural communication, New York: New York Press, pp. 17-26.
James, L. (2006). Communication and culture in an organization, New York: New York Press, pp 45-65.
Kathleen, S. (2007). Leaders and communication strategies, Beijing: Yuan kin Press, pp. 35-37.
Richard, H. (2003). Relationship between culture and communication, New York: New York Press, pp.20-112.
Robert, T. (1999). Problem penetrating a culture, London: Oxford University Press, pp. 12-45.56-89.
Sari, T.(2007). Behavior ethics and intercultural values in organizations, Hong Kong: Chan Bin Press, pp. 23-78.