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Talking Core and Flex

In this article Julia Middleton, Chief Executive, Common Purpose discusses what makes us who we are?
© Julia Middleton
The process of developing the Cultural Intelligence that will enable us to go out and thrive in different cultures starts by looking at ourselves. In particular, at two aspects of ourselves. They are ‘Core’ and ‘Flex’. Both help to define us as leaders, although they are quite different.
Core and Flex cover more than just our identity. They account for everything from spirit to behaviours and habits, from grand beliefs to small actions. A well defined Core and Flex equips us with the ability to experience new things and adapt to other people without fear of losing who we are as individuals – changing and accommodating without ever compromising on what matters.
Our Core
  • Things we would never do or always do
  • This is not just our values or identity, but our behaviours which are core to who we are – they don’t change, they remain the same anywhere we are, without which we are not ourselves.
Leaders need to know what is in their Core, because if they are not aware of it – both the good and bad – they will confuse and unsettle themselves, and others, on a regular basis. A tighter Core also makes it much easier when you have to Flex.
Our Flex
  • Aspects of ourselves that we adapt to differing circumstances, which aren’t hardwired into who we are as individuals.
Flex itself generally starts with behaviours. Behaviours are very important signifiers as we operate in other cultures, not least because they demonstrate that we have Flex. As we start to go beyond behaviours and deeper into Flex, it gets even harder. Flexing how we behave is one thing but Flexing what we believe gets very tough. It has to be done for real, in good faith, without flinching; otherwise it transmits a false pretence.
Have a look at this interesting TED talk about one persons journey to finding their own individual voice – their Core and Flex.
© Julia Middleton
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Developing Cultural Intelligence for Leadership

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