Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success

Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success

by David Livermore

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You’ve gotten used to managing a diverse workforce. You deal with vendors across the globe. You see people as people, whether they’re Chinese, Indian, Mexican, or American. You know the basic protocols to follow and the taboos to avoid. Still, when you arrive in another country or sit down to negotiate with someone from a

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You’ve gotten used to managing a diverse workforce. You deal with vendors across the globe. You see people as people, whether they’re Chinese, Indian, Mexican, or American. You know the basic protocols to follow and the taboos to avoid. Still, when you arrive in another country or sit down to negotiate with someone from a different culture, you feel anxious and awkward, and often wind up saying or doing something wrong. You’re not alone. Seventy percent of international ventures fail because of cultural differences. Do you need to speak multiple languages and have a Ph.D. in international relations to succeed in these global times? The reassuring reality is that you don’t need to master all the norms and nuances of the myriad of cultures you encounter. What you need is CQ. That’s short for Cultural Intelligence, a new set of skills and sensitivities that picks up where EQ leaves off.

Leading with Cultural Intelligence is a ground­breaking guide to developing the repertoire and perspective to lead across a wide range of cultures—effectively, respectfully, and confidently. A global leadership consultant, David Livermore presents a proven model for success in any unfamiliar cultural context. It’s easy to grasp and follow, yet radically different from simplistic approaches that focus on mimicking other cultures’ gestures and phrases. Rooted in rigorous research spanning 25 countries, the CQ way of relating to and inspiring people from different national, ethnic, and organizational cultures is an ongoing cycle. You’ll learn how to lead cross-culturally—and continually grow in proficiency and comfort—by applying a process with four key components:

Drive. What’s your motivation for this cross-cultural assignment? How can you increase your confidence level?

Knowledge. What specific cultural systems, issues, and values do you need to understand?

Strategy. What information do you need to map out a successful cross-cultural plan? What assumptions do you need to check?

Action. What communication style and behaviors should you adapt for this intercultural interaction?

At every step, you’ll find helpful summaries and best practices. You’ll also gain valuable insights into common situations, from eating unfamiliar local delicacies to apologizing, through the stories of frequent cross-cultural travelers.

With Leading with Cultural Intelligence as your trusted compass, you’ll be able to thrive in the global business climate and handle multi­cultural hurdles in your own backyard. By raising your CQ, you’ll also contribute to the greater good of equal humanity for all.

David Livermore, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Global Learning Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is a Senior Research Consultant with the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, Michigan, and a Visiting Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He has done consulting and training with leaders in 75 countries across the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Visit www.davidlivermore.com

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"... an instructive, illuminating, accessible primer for all who might have commercial and organizational involvements in the multicultural times of the 21st century."— New York Journal of Books

“…essential and must read book to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of working, managing, and leadership in a multicultural world.” --Blog Business World

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

You Lead Across a Multicultural Terrain: Why CQ?

Leadership today is a multicultural challenge. Few of us need to

be convinced of that fact. We’re competing in a global marketplace,

managing a diverse workforce, and trying to keep up with rapidly

shifting trends. However, many approaches to this leadership

challenge seem either far too simplistic (e.g., “Smile, avoid these

three taboos, and you’ll be fine”) or far too extreme (e.g., “Don’t go

anywhere until you’re a cross-cultural guru”). Cultural intelligence

offers a better way. The four-step cycle of cultural intelligence presented

in this book is one you can run through every time you

jump into a new cross-cultural situation.

What are the biggest hindrances to reaching your goals personally

and professionally? How do you effectively lead people who

come from different cultural backgrounds? What kinds of cultural

situations bring you the greatest level of fatigue? How do you give

instructions for an assignment to a Pakistani employee versus one

from Bosnia? What kind of training should you design for a management

team coming from multiple cultural backgrounds? How

do you get feedback from a colleague who comes from a culture

that values saving face above direct, straightforward feedback?

And how can you possibly keep up with all the different cultural

scenarios that surface in our rapidly globalizing world? These are

the kinds of questions answered by running through the four-step

cycle of CQ presented in this book.

All my life I’ve been fascinated by cultures. From as far back

in my childhood as a Canadian-American kid growing up in New

York, I was intrigued by the differences we’d encounter on our

trips across the border to visit our relatives in Canada. The multicolored

money, the different ways of saying things, and the varied

cuisine we found after passing through customs drew me in.

I’ve learned far more about leadership, global issues, and my faith

from cross-cultural experiences and work than from any graduate

course I’ve ever taken or taught. I’ve made people laugh when I’ve

stumbled through a different language or inadvertently ate something

the “wrong” way. I’ve winced upon later discovering I offended

a group of ethnically different colleagues because I spent

too much time complimenting them. I’m a better leader, teacher,

father, friend, and citizen because of the cross-cultural friendships

I’ve forged through my work. And through the fascinating domain

of cultural intelligence, I’ve discovered an enriched way to understand

and prepare for my cross-cultural work.

Cultural intelligence is the “capability to function effectively across

national, ethnic, and organizational cultures.”1 It can be learned by almost

anyone. Cultural intelligence offers leaders an overall repertoire

and perspective that can be applied to a myriad of cultural situations.

It is a capability that includes four different dimensions enabling us

to meet the fast-paced demands of leadership. This book describes

how to gain the competitive edge and finesse that comes from running

through the four-step cycle of cultural intelligence. Think about

a cross-cultural assignment or situation facing you. Take a minute

and walk through the four-step cycle of CQ right now:

1. CQ Drive: What is your motivation for this assignment?

2. CQ Knowledge: What cultural information is needed to

fulfill this task?

3. CQ Strategy: What is your plan for this initiative?

4. CQ Action: What behaviors do you need to adapt to do this


If you don’t have a clue how to answer one or more of those

questions right now, the book will explain how to do all that. But

before more fully describing what cultural intelligence is and how to

develop it, it is important to see its direct relevance to leadership in

a rapidly globalizing world. This chapter reviews some of the most

compelling reasons for becoming more culturally intelligent. We

begin with a story and then we look at an overview of the relevance

of cultural intelligence to our most pressing leadership demands.


It’s the day before I fly to Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia.

Liberia, a small country on the coast of West Africa, isn’t a place I

ever planned to visit. But given that my organization has recently

formed a partnership there, it’s now become a regular destination

for me. I’ve spent far more time working in Europe, Asia, and Latin

America, which are much more familiar destinations to me. West

Africa still feels very foreign. Yet, the flattened world of globalization

makes even the most foreign places still seem oddly familiar

in some strange way. Wireless access in the hotel where I stay, Diet

Coke, and the use of U.S. currency remove some of the faraway

feeling of a place like Monrovia yet I still have to make a lot of adaptations

to do my job in a place like Liberia.

It’s amazing how life and work in our rapidly globalizing world

brings us an unprecedented number of encounters with people,

places, and issues from around the world. I guess the world is

flat — isn’t it? Economist Thomas Friedman popularized the term

flat world to suggest that the competitive playing fields between

industrialized and emerging markets are leveling.2

The day before I leave for West Africa is spent tying up loose ends

prior to my weeklong absence. I respond to e-mails from colleagues

in Dubai, Shanghai, Frankfurt, and Johannesburg and I talk on the

phone with clients in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. My wife and I

grab a quick lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant, and we talk with

a Sudanese refugee who bags the groceries we pick up on the way

home. Before my kids return from their Cinco de Mayo celebration

at school, I call my credit card company and I reach a customer service

representative in Delhi. Even in the small city of Grand Rapids,

Michigan, where I live, cross-cultural encounters abound.

One would think travel across the flattened world would be

easier than it is. Getting from Grand Rapids to Monrovia takes

some very deliberate planning and it wreaks havoc on the body.

My travel and work have to be planned around the three days a

week when Brussels Air, the only Western airline that flies into

Monrovia, goes there. But still, the fact that I can have breakfast

with my family one morning and go for a run along the Atlantic

Coast in West Africa less than twenty-four hours later is still pretty

amazing. So maybe the world is becoming flat.

On the flight from Brussels to Monrovia, I sit next to Tim, a

twenty-two-year-old Liberian guy currently living in Atlanta. We

chat briefly. He describes his enthusiasm about going home to

Liberia for his first visit since his parents helped plan his escape to

the United States during the civil war ten years previously.

As we land, I see the U.N. planes parked across the tarmac. A

mere eight hours ago, I was walking the streets of Brussels and

grabbing an early morning waffle. And here I am making my way

toward passport control in Monrovia. Maybe travel across multiple

time zones isn’t so bad after all.

Eventually I end up at the baggage claim next to Tim, my new

acquaintance. A porter who looks so old he could pass for age 100 is

there to help Tim with his luggage. The porter asks Tim, “How long

are you staying here, man?” Tim responds, “Only two weeks. I wish

it was longer.” The porter bursts out with a piercing laugh. “Why,

my man? You’re from the USA!” Tim responds, “I know, but life is

hard there. I wish I could stay here longer. Life is better here.” The

porter laughs even harder, slaps Tim on the back, and says, “You’re

talking crazy, man. Look at you. You have an American passport!

You don’t know what a hard life is. I’ve been working the last thirtyseven

hours straight and they haven’t paid me for six weeks. But I

can’t give up this job. Most people don’t have jobs. But look at you.

You’ve been eating well. You look so fat and healthy. And you live in

the USA!” Tim just shakes his head and says, “You don’t know. You

have no idea, no idea. It’s hard. Never mind. Just get my bag.” I can

see the fatigue penetrating Tim’s broad shoulders.

I can understand why the porter found it absolutely laughable

that a twenty-two-year-old bloke who can afford a two-week vacation

across the ocean could consider life “hard.” Yet I imagine

there are some significant hardships for Tim as a young African-

American man living in Atlanta. The statistics are stacked against

him. How many people lock their car doors when he walks by?

What extra hoops did he have to go through to get hired at the fitness

center where he works? And Tim had told me the enormous

expectations placed on him by his family and friends who stayed

back in Liberia. After all, they didn’t get to escape the war, so the

least he can do is send regular amounts of money to support them.

Observing these kinds of interactions as we travel provides insights

into how to negotiate and fulfill our strategic outcomes.

As I walk out of the Monrovia airport, a brightly smiling

woman adorned in glowing orange from head to toe sells me a

SIM card for my phone for USD $5. I hand her five U.S. dollars. I

send a text message to my family to let them know I arrived safely.

While walking, texting, and looking for my driver, I nearly trip

over a woman relieving herself, I see kids selling drinking water,

and I pass men my age who by Liberian standards are statistically

in their final years. Using my phone to send a text message home

makes the foreign seem familiar, but watching my kids’ peers sell

water makes the same place seem foreign.

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