Peter Drucker, 1 the famous scholar of management, said that we are in an “age of social transformation,” a period of our lives where social order is drastically transforming the human condition and what it means from what we have previously known it to be. This age requires us to reflect differently than before about our relationships, about how we resolve intercultural and social conflicts, and the consequences our actions produce when we are not mindful of our intentions. Similarly, Daniel Pink, 2 in A Whole New Mind, speaks about a conceptual age where empathy and emotional intelligence are essential in business; where stories and storytelling are powerful tools to create unity, develop trust, and resolve unsettled business; and how using play can help us find life’s meaning and a deeper alignment to our core values.
The changes we see in societies around the globe necessitate a new and different paradigm for how we come to think about culture. All this makes it harder and more challenging to think and practice cultural competence in the same way. Gardner 3 says we need to approach the challenges that differences bring through acceptance, respect, and learning—a frame that he calls the “respectful mind.” We must engage in intercultural situations and activities fully; we need to immerse ourselves and experience the “flow” 4 in order to harness the emotions needed to perform and learn from our cultural interactions. Leaders must be willing to explore and create new ways of thinking and interacting with the flow of culture.
In this age of social transformation, cultural intelligence is a topic of urgency for organizational leaders. I hear it from leaders and managers, and I see it in everyday organizational life. Environmental, political, and technological factors are quickly shifting the ways we work and interrelate with one another. Culture shifts are happening at a faster rate than organizations are ready for and capable of managing, thus creating mental and emotional havoc in managing and leading through cultural transitions. In many cases, the result is a tighter hold on the invisible aspects of culture and stronger emphasis for “the ‘right’ way to do the work.”
More and more, people ask for the tools and information that help carry them through intercultural and cross-cultural interactions. There are a multitude of tools and methodologies that are useful for managing and leading on a global level—the cultural intelligence framework is one of them. It is only one component in the equation for improving the management and leadership of cultural interactions. I tell leaders, “You need to recognize that no matter what tool or method you use, who you are and how you use the tool or method is the biggest part of the equation.”
The information in this book is designed to help you understand a piece of that equation. The ideas behind cultural intelligence help you to grasp the important impact of cultural interactions while assisting in your practice as a culturally intelligent leader. Even if you have worked with cultural intelligence or other intercultural communication tools and principles, this book serves as a tool to further develop your proficiency.