If you believe your position, job function, ethnic group, gender, race, class or culture is superior, think again!

globalleadershipcompadvantageGlobal leadership with all its nuances and implications creates one of the greatest challenges for 21st century leaders and organizations. Globalization implies an intermingling, interconnections and interdependencies of multiple cultures, ideas, perspectives and world views.

To be effective global leaders, we need to become fully aware of our biases, understand the impact of ethnocentrism on our values and perceptions of others, and develop the three key global leadership competencies.

Getting Over Ourselves: Unconscious Bias and Ethnocentrism

Gone are the days where we can measure workplace operations, professional standards and the values of everyone else against our own standards, values and expectations. Gone are the days where such limited and narrow views and perspective are accepted.

The global and culturally intelligent leader effectively assesses, understands and manages any biases so as to move forward with developing globally diverse teams and establishing an organizational culture of understanding, appreciation, inclusiveness and opportunity for everyone.

Bias, in and of itself, is natural and not necessarily an impediment to leadership success. The danger lies in our unwillingness to recognize and appreciate our biases and adjust our behaviors and thinking accordingly.

Bias and stereotyping exist everywhere, every day. The danger lies in not knowing of our biases and in devaluing the affect they may have on how we interact, assess and deal with others. According to the Unconscious Bias Learning Lab, “We all have Bias. It’s true. We all do have bias of one kind or another. Bias is a natural function of the human brain that allows us to process the millions of pieces of information we are exposed to any one time. Our biases allow us to think and act quickly, but they also result in less inclusive and equitable organizations.”

It is not necessary that all bias be eliminated; but it is necessary that we become aware of its existence and manage and channel it appropriately.

Ethnocentricity. Dictionary.com defines it as “the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own ethnic group or culture; a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own.” The impact that ethnocentrism has on our ability to develop as culturally intelligent and effective global leaders is profound, but it is not a hindrance on success. Ethnocentricity reflects our natural persistent biases.

Become a Global Leader

Terina Allen As I stated earlier, globalization has a tremendous impact on leaders and companies today, and the most effective leaders who work in and among global organizations are those who possess higher-than-average levels of (1) cultural intelligence, (2) emotional intelligence and (3) transformational and resonant leadership abilities.

1. Cultural Intelligence Competence

Cultural intelligence – CQ (cultural quotient) – is where a leader demonstrates her ability to facilitate and enhance diversity appreciation, inclusion and cross-cultural opportunities and engagements (CQ). Livermore (2010) defines cultural intelligence (CQ) as “the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures.”

I assert that today’s leaders are presented with new challenges and opportunities everyday with regard to the myriad of cultural contexts, customers, and languages they have to engage and address on a regular basis. CQ helps us flex and adapt our thinking and behaviors accordingly so that we may successfully and effectively respond to these challenges and navigate the opportunities.

2. Emotional Intelligence Competence

I consider emotional intelligence to be a core/critical leadership competency for effective leadership in any circumstance. Although CQ is different from emotional intelligence (EQ), it is definitely related to it. EQ measures social and emotional ability and helps leaders assess how well they perceive, assess and manage their own and others’ emotions.

Even still, as important as this core leadership competency is, it is not sufficient for leading culturally diverse teams and global organizations. Livermore (2010) discusses how research demonstrates and validates that that those with higher EQ levels are likely to be more effective leaders; however, he goes on to state that this research does not support how or whether this effectiveness is sustained across different cultures.

CQ combined with EQ is the answer for ensuring culturally competent leaders who can sustain their effectiveness across varying cultures and in a global world. In one way or another, these two intelligences – along with intellectual intelligence (IQ) – are what we use to ascertain a person’s propensity for success and achievement and leadership within our organizations and in global and culture contexts.

3. Transformational and Resonant Leadership Competence

Transformational leadership occurs when we as leaders not only focus on organizational results, but when we build trust, develop competence and confidence, and transfer learning, understanding, and value to those who follow and rely on us. We cannot accomplish any of this if we are not concerned with the cultural differences and needs of those with whom we work and/or lead.

In an earlier article, I outline the five (5) things that transformational leaders do differently. You can read it here.

Resonant leaders are attuned to the needs, feelings and desires of those they lead. These leaders have an elevated ability to demonstrate empathy and to recognize and interpret the emotions and discrepancies around them; they are also resilient. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly, adapt, and overcome obstacles and resistance and embrace and manage cross-cultural teams and cultural diversity.

You Tell Me –

  • Do you have what it takes?
  • Are you developing these key leadership competencies?
  • Are you aware of your biases and regularly work to monitor and manage them?
  • How do you demonstrate cultural intelligence and resonant leadership with globally diverse teams?



Allen, T. (2014). Are You Transformational? Leaders Influence BUT Transformational Leaders Elevate!. LinkedIn Publishing (read it here).

Livermore, D. (2010).Leading with cultural intelligence: The new secret to success. New York, NY:AMACOM, a division of American Management Association. Prenderville, S. (2012).

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership. ARVis Institute, LLC. (download PDF here).

Unconscious Bias Learning Lab, Retrieved from http://www.cookross.com/ubll/unconsciousbias.html

Image Credits: ARVis Institute

by Terina Allen
President & CEO, ARVis Institute
Chair, ARVoices Strategic Leadership Network