My advice is...

We spoke to leaders from around the world, asking them what their advice would be to other leaders, locally to them, who were about to go and work in another part of the world.

Alan Rosling – Mumbai

  • Listen. In India, you are trained to think that the leader should know all the answers. This does not have to be the case

  • Don’t deny who you are; don’t drop your Core so as to integrate too fast

  • Don’t be arrogant. Don’t tell people how you do things

  • Be confident. Indians are incredible adaptors, because their country is so diverse. They have been invaded by languages, cultures and armies over the years. As a result, they are tolerant of difference like no others.

Lady Susan Rice – Edinburgh

In the Anglo-Saxon world, we don’t often hesitate when we need to say ‘no’ – to a question, a proposition, whatever. We might explain why, but we’re clear and direct in our response and expect others to be. However, in some places, people are uncomfortable saying ‘no’. So you have to be able to spot when there’s no real ‘yes’.

Martin Kalungu-Banda – Zambia

My advice to an African leader who is making the transition to a global role?

  • Be curious about things, even things you (inwardly) violently disagree with. Ask questions so that you understand

  • Draw on a saying which came from my tribe, which was a fisherman’s tribe. It was advice they gave you if you were going to another village: ‘Keep your net in your house’. Basically, keep out of sight, see how the locals do their fishing first. Don’t arrive and tell them all how to fish, even if (or especially if) you are an amazing fisherman.

Seiji Shiraki – Brazil (originally from Japan now working in South America)

My advice to someone Japanese going for their first big international job?

  • Keep firmly in your mind that you have been given the chance to travel. This is a privilege for which you should be grateful. It is not a burden. Be delighted – and express your delight

  • Respect wherever it is you go

  • Get as much information as you can about the new country, even if it is a country which does not like Japan.

Maria Figueroa Kupcu – New York

My advice to Americans who get posted outside the US:

  • Resist the ‘if there is a problem, there is a solution’ default position. Accept that some problems don’t have solutions. Or, at least, that the solution does not have to come from you.

  • Teach yourself to do a double take: what you are hearing may not be what was meant. Conversely, maybe it was meant, so you are going to have to get used to hearing things that you are not trained to hear. You must overcome your cultural baggage, and listen.

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This article is from the free online course:

Developing Cultural Intelligence for Leadership

Common Purpose