The importance of multicultural leadership
An organization’s ability to unite a multicultural workforce behind values of mutual respect and work towards common goals is fundamental to building a successful business. According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte, organizations with more inclusive cultures are double as likely to meet or exceed their financial targets. Moreover, as the same study reveals, these organizations are also six times more likely to be innovative and agile, a vital factor to success in an economic landscape of uncertainty and volatility.
Aside from the benefits to the organization, multicultural leadership also has a profound impact on employees’ attitudes towards their companies. As we move to an increasingly globalized workforce, employees are placing greater emphasis on inclusivity as a consideration when choosing a job. Indeed, a Glassdoor survey revealed that as many as 76% of job seekers felt that a diverse workforce was an important factor when assessing their job opportunities. In order to cultivate a happy, motivated, and highly successful workforce, therefore, multicultural leadership is a necessity. With that in mind, here are some of the most important values of multicultural leadership that any leader can work on improving.
Cultural intelligence is the ability to understand and appreciate different cultures. While many leaders may be familiar with the concept, it is important to stress that cultural intelligence goes beyond simply knowing about other cultures - it involves a deep and empathetic understanding of other people’s values and beliefs.
A culturally intelligent leader will work to appreciate cultural differences across their team and make a conscious effort to find common ground, ensuring that everybody feels valued and respected. This process may begin in any number of ways, though one method of initiating cross-cultural communications between team members is to bring the team together and, one by one, go around and explain the origins of their name. This method is particularly worthwhile given that someone’s name is an expression of who they are and, therefore, something that they can talk about freely and easily. In turn, this will help others to consider the importance of culture in shaping who we are and how we interact.
Effective communication in multicultural organizations means being able to factor cultural differences and possible language barriers into communication channels. In order to achieve this, leaders must work to become patient listeners and ensure they are offering clear, constructive feedback, and avoid idiomatic expressions that can easily be misunderstood by non-native speakers.
Active listening is a key skill when it comes to communicating with people from different backgrounds to ensure that team members feel comfortable and valued. Instead of passively hearing employees’ words, leaders should show they are engaged in what their teams are saying.
Reset the culture
Leaders not only have the ability to reflect and reconsider their behavior but also to influence company-wide change. In order to truly become a multicultural organization as well as a leader, this move from the individual to a broader cultural transformation is essential. A recent study revealed that as many as 71% of organizations wish to develop an inclusive culture in the future, though, according to data, as few as 12% manage to do so.
Chiefly, this is because leaders tend to underestimate the extent of change needed in order to cultivate a multicultural environment. An excellent method of ensuring broader organizational change is digital leadership coaching since this encourages leaders to develop their soft skills and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. In doing so, the ripple effect of more effective communication and the skill to adapt to different perspectives help to foster a coaching culture, in which individuals feel valued, supported, and empowered.
To conclude, effective leadership in multicultural organizations requires a willingness to adapt to the different values and needs of individuals within the organization. By embracing diversity as a positive rather than a threat through empathy, communication, and understanding, leaders can begin the process of working towards multicultural leadership.
To find out more about multicultural leadership from Sharpist’s Executive Coach, Florian Brody, watch our webinar.