What is true cross-cultural leadership?
Presenting in Kuala Lumpur in December quickly showed me that conscious global leadership goes beyond differences and diversity. It links in to a common humanity that requires archetypal thinking. What does that mean?
Here's what happened. I took things carefully, that is, aimed to assess where people were at and the energy in the room as it gradually filled for the conference. I was not used to the way of dress and I found body language was difficult to read under the shrouding of a lot of fabric in the case of many of the women. I had to read faces carefully and trust what I was feeling. Why? Not out of a need to intrude or invade privacy but to find a way to quickly connect, to build relationship and trust so we could move forward with ease and openness.
I felt myself readjust, check in with myself and take a stance accordingly. How conscious was I in that moment? Very much aware of what I was feeling. But conscious of my decision as a result? Also aware. But thinking over the session later I saw many things I would do differently given what I discovered along the way based in part on my decision at that time. I assumed a 'reserved' energy in the participants meant a reserved outlook on life, so my instinct was to reserve my own energy despite it feeling inauthentic to my own style. How wrong I was!
Individual contributions were more difficult to elicit but as soon as I instigated group activities, the room burst into life! They worked together as a team enthusiastically and came to consensus quite quickly on a set problem. Nothing reserved or meek about these people at all if given the right mechanism for communication. A note well taken for the next engagement in KL - be yourself!
Then a deeper lesson came in contrast with the group think. At the break a woman came to me and revealed her own doubts about her leadership approach as a VP in a large company. She was having difficulty creating the culture she valued, motivating her team and staying true to her own authenticity. As she spoke, her eyes locked on mine in sincere searching, I felt a meeting of minds and hearts. We stood in deep connection and my focus was riveted on a shared desire to help her find a heart-felt solution. When I look back and feel that moment again, it was as if time stood still and all cultural barriers dissolved.
We are all walking the same path. The problems might look different but the 'real' challenge is one of finding solutions that resonate authentically, build harmony and allow deep, fulfilling success. The archetype at work is the independent leader who values powerful partnership - Mars (the goal-setter) and Venus (the manifestor) working in tandem - to actualise a higher vision for all and flourish.
What's the conscious cross-cultural solution? Aim to connect with the Truth within each person in all interactions. Teach how to make this connection and apply it for powerful positive effect as we work together for the benefit of all - in all our diversity.