Multicultural Leadership Development in the 21st Century

Multicultural Leadership Development in the 21st Century

In our leadership development work with international clients over the past decade, we have increasingly found ourselves faced with two questions: Is one dominant leadership model enough in today’s multicultural work environment, especially for global organizations? And, what can we learn from other cultural traditions to diversify and enrich our approaches for developing the leaders of the future?

This paper does not answer these questions; rather, it shares insights and raises questions. We believe it is particularly important now to explore new thinking and generate specific ideas to advance our leadership initiatives for global organizations.

As we work extensively with international organizations, we are well aware that the multiplicity of cultures these leaders deal with shapes their definitions, expectations, experiences and expressions of what leadership is and what it needs to be. We have listened as they told us that one leadership approach, such as the western style which is predominantly used for presenting models and techniques, is not sufficient for them to lead effectively anymore.

In this paper, we broaden our lens beyond the western style to include eastern and indigenous styles so that global leaders are aware of the implications and approaches for each and can make informed choices as they address real-time leadership responsibilities.

This multicultural perspective of leadership is not yet fully described in current literature or recent research. We are taking the initiative to raise issues and questions as we heard them from leaders in global organizations, and especially our clients in the United Nations system of organizations. In follow-up publications, we will suggest a roadmap for developing new content and innovative methodology to enhance leadership programs and practices through multicultural approaches.

As we acknowledge several culture-related leadership styles, we invite you to consider:

  • What unique characteristics, models and practices of each cultural perspective might we incorporate into our leadership development efforts?
  • How can we most effectively incorporate approaches of western, eastern and indigenous styles in our programs, and encourage effective exploration of each?
  • What tools and techniques are most useful for global leaders?

We invite you to join us on this journey and welcome your thoughts as we explore new frontiers in multicultural leadership development together.