Leadership and Management of a Multicultural Team

Leadership style and qualities needed in a multicultural business environment

When managing a multicultural team, it is necessary to take into account the cultural specificities of each member within the business environment. This implies that leaders should seek to implement tools that create an atmosphere of trust among all working groups. As a matter of fact, it is crucial to anticipate misunderstandings due to cultural differences that exist at workplace. Whenever employees in a multicultural environment conflict with each other, effective leaders should find solutions alongside valuing the cultures involved. This paper seeks to develop and explore two key learning objectives with respect to managing multicultural teams. The dynamic and ever changing business environment demands extra ordinary measures that can aid in mapping appropriate entrepreneurial leadership features (Stahl, Maznevski,Voigt & Jonsen, 2010).

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One of the factors to consider as leader in a multicultural environment is effective intercultural communication. Leaders in this capacity should indeed begin inducting their members how to recognize and manage culture shock. Cultural differences might act as a major setback for employees who are not used to interacting with various cultures (Mount, Ilies & Johnson, 2006). Newly recruited employees should be taken through seminars and workshops for recognizing, identifying and managing culture shock when it comes to aspects such as dressing, eating habits and other facets of lifestyle. Second, leaders should be in a position to guide other employees to understand the behavior of colleagues from different cultures in order prevent cultural misunderstandings. The latter can be attained by identifying situations and misunderstandings that may have occurred in the field by the participants. Cultural differentiation factors and the impact of perception as well as relationship with the environment are prudent factors to put into consideration by leaders in a multicultural environment.

In regards to positive perception, factors such as different notions of time, formal and informal communication, thought patterns and interactions between national and corporate cultures are crucial when leading groups and teams in a multicultural business environment. This degree of perception demands a leader who has clarity of vision in the daily operations of an organization (Herbert, Mockaitis & Zander, 2014).

Managing a multicultural team equally requires leaders who can:

  • Understand and respect the existing hierarchical relationship at workplace
  • Handle criticisms and conflicts in a sober manner. This implies that such a leader should be an individual who cannot compromise the ideals and corporate culture of an organization.
  • Recognize how different cultures perceive the authority and management of the day.
  • Identify and understand the codes and protocols in the organization especially when meetings are taking place.
  • Make an effective presentation in an intercultural context.
  • Appreciate and redirect the impact of culture on management through motivation, solving emerging problems, mediating in the smooth flow of information, articulate decision-making, and consistent building of consensus.
  • Identify and harmonize the competencies of the international manager.

Leadership qualities in creating synergy effects within multicultural teams

As already hinted out, a multicultural business environment demands effective leadership skills and qualities in order to create and develop synergies that can advance the growth and development of an organization. A multicultural team is indeed composed of employees with diverse needs, tastes, abilities and preferences. Leaders who have been mandated to oversee such teams should begin by overcoming and managing conflicts and language barriers. When employees cannot communicate and understand each other at workplace, it calls for an urgent need to break the existing language barrier. At the leadership level, written and oral intercultural communication through emails, phone, mail, and meeting in organizations can indeed break communication barrier between employees and organizational leaders (Hooijberg, Lane & Diverse, 2010).

Effective leaders should also strive to unite other workers and share the values ​​and beliefs of a company’s culture. It is equally necessary to analyze key attitudes that can be adopted in order to strengthen the skills of employees. A harmonious working environment improves the output of employees at any given time.

Communication and goal-wetting in a multicultural environment

Communication is a key component in a multicultural business environment. Building professional relationships between organizational leaders and other workers can be a challenging role to undertake especially in multicultural teams. Nonetheless, effective leadership qualities can indeed successfully propel this need. For instance, leaders should work and discharge their duties based on well defined goals or objectives. It is not possible for a leader to flourish in a multicultural business environment without specific, measurable, attainable, and time-bound goals in place. Hence, leaders should identify and understand cultural differences in professional relations and equally communicate the same to other members of the organization (Edward & Price, 2009). In addition, effective leaders should identify their unique behavioral styles in a multicultural context in order to assess management styles and capabilities. It might be possible that a leader need to improve in certain areas of performance. In the absence of self-appraisal measures, it can be cumbersome for a leader to identify specific areas that need improvement.

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Moreover, effective leaders in a multicultural business environment are supposed to optimize their relationships with others and harmonize professional practices throughout their tenure in office. Developing intercultural skills such as intercultural sensitivity, management of uncertainty and ambiguity, and intercultural communication are key areas of leadership performance improvement that are beneficial in a multicultural environment.

Leveraging and managing cultural diversity through cultural competence

Leveraging cultural differences and managing workplace diversity are two major talents that should be dominant among leaders in a multicultural business environment. Contemporary managers cannot elude the reality of working in culturally-diverse environments owing to the high pace of globalization. In addition, intercultural communication differences often present a lot of misunderstanding, friction and challenges that organizational leaders and managers are supposed to grapple with on a regular basis. From the outset, cross-cultural competence is a powerful parameter and a leadership quality that international managers should possess in order to deliver their roles as effective as possible. Hence, a distinct skill set can be derived from a competent leader who desires lead successful teams in a multicultural business environment. In addition, it is prudent to observe that a culturally competent leader is capable of modifying his/her leadership skills at time without being coerced by the prevailing situations or circumstances. Effective leaders should be mindful of their leadership skills while at the helm of leading others.

Leveraging cultural diversity should be part and parcel of the leadership quality for managers in multicultural environments. This can be attained buy facilitating regular face-to-face communication with employees. As much as emails and phone calls provide alternative communication channels, verbal face-to-face communication is deemed to be more effective in harnessing and building stronger and lasing relationships at workplace.

A leader should be vivid in terms of individual cultural profile. It is a lot easier to direct a multicultural team when a leader’s actions, feelings, communication style, and influence at work are clearly known and established. In other words, a leader should be crystal clear on the aforementioned elements in order to deliver the best services to employees.

It is also obvious that effective teamwork can be hindered by destructive cultural differences. The latter is predominant in teams that are multicultural teams. Managers with effective leadership styles and qualities should be keen to identify cultural sources of conflict. Nonetheless, this does not imply that cultural differences are a negative input in organizations. In any case, cultural diversity is a crucial ingredient in workplace productivity. Even in the event that conflicts arise, leaders should intervene only when it is completely necessary.

Team cohesion is a pertinent undertaking in a multicultural business environment. Effective leaders are supposed to encourage dialogue and share their vision to the rest of the multicultural individuals. Hence, leaders should invest adequate time to evaluate and comprehend values and behavioral patterns that can positively influence cultural differences.

Every action of a leader should embrace building trust. Accountability and transparency in the delivery of services in a multicultural environment are key leadership qualities that can indeed facilitate trust between leaders and employees. Credibility and trust should be maintained by effective leaders as part and parcel of leveraging and managing cultural diversity.

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Understanding the perspective of a multicultural team should encompass part of the qualities of an effective leader. Comprehending the perspective of a multicultural team requires regular ‘check in’. For example, a leader should be a keen listener who is in a position to interpret the concerns of employees, their desires and career development needs at any given time (Marc, 2009).

There are a number of visionary qualities that leaders should embrace when leading teams in a multicultural business environment. For instance, it is necessary for a leader to give direction and purpose to the members of his team. Like a political leader, a manager is the same person who is capable of producing innovative orientations that make sense for every individual. This vision can be more or less accurate depending on the nature of a team being led. Nevertheless, it should give people a realistic, attractive and credible perspective of the future.

Visionary qualities of an effective leader are also evident in communication competences. An innovative vision can indeed appeal if it is effectively transmitted. Listening skills, ability to question and openness are also among other qualities of an effective leader in a multicultural environment. Openness to others denotes an ability to be able to take into account the concerns of everyone in order to contribute to the group service. It is the look and the concern of others that allow reflexivity, positive feedback and introspection form multicultural teams (Grandey, Rafaeli, Ravid, Wirtz & Steiner, 2010).

The need to share power is an added value for managers leading multicultural teams. As the head of a working group, a manager has the responsibility to empower his employees irrespective of its composition. The distribution of power is a powerful development tool in a multicultural group. A leader who delegates authority demonstrates respect and dignity to employees. A sense of belonging within a multicultural team is created when duties are shared and some delegated.

References

Edward, G. O., & Price, A. D. (2009). Framework for managing multicultural project teams. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 16(6), 527-543.

Grandey, A., Rafaeli, A., Ravid, S., Wirtz, J., & Steiner, D. D. (2010). Emotion display rules at work in the global service economy: The special case of the customer. Journal of Service Management, 21(3), 388-412.

Herbert, K., Mockaitis, A. I., & Zander, L. (2014). An opportunity for east and west to share leadership: A multicultural analysis of shared leadership preferences in global teams. Asian Business & Management, 13(3), 257-282.

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Hooijberg, R., Lane, N. & Diverse, A. (2010). Leader effectiveness and integrity: wishful thinking? International Journal of Organizational Analysis 18(1), 59-75.

Marc, H. A. (2009). The role of group personality composition in the emergence of task and relationship conflict within groups. Journal of Management and Organization, 15(1), 82-96.

Mount, M., Ilies, R., & Johnson, E. (2006). Relationship of personality traits and counterproductive work behaviors: The mediating effects of job satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 59(3), 591-622.

Stahl, G., Maznevski, M. L., Voigt, A., & Jonsen, K. (2010). Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: A meta-analysis of research on multicultural work groups. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(4), 690-709.

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