Leaders in 2013 face new challenges as work force demographics change and employees with different cultural histories begin to come into the workforce. I talk to managers and supervisors notice I did not say leaders, who say “foreigners” need to learn English, or why should I learn about their culture, they should learn to be American. This is a very short sighted view. First, America was founded by people from somewhere else. Even the original Indian inhabitants came from someplace else. As a country we became diverse because people did not completely give up on their old traditions and cultures just to become an American. You do not, and cannot, wipe your memories away when you become an American.
The effective leaders understand and embrace having a diverse group of people working for them. They inherently understand diversity reduces the chance of “group think”. They also understand that their success is based on the actions of the individual employee. The employee’s actions are based on how they interpret the directions of the leader. Their interpretations are based through the context of past cultural experiences. Therefore, to be effective, the leader needs to understand the cultural history and context which develop the individual expectations of their employees. Then the leader can tailor their message to the individual employee. The overall message remains the same, but the individual meaning is shaped through the cultural lens.
It may sound like a lot of needless work, but it isn’t. By learning a basic level of the cultures of your employees the leader actually builds a greater credibility with the employee. The leader learns something’s that they may not have known, but more importantly, they have a new tool to put in their tool box. Leaders who not only develop their employees but also develop a cultural awareness of their employees become a “hot commodity” for their organization. Opportunities to grow, both inside and outside of their company, will most assuredly follow. So, from even an individualistic point of view, learning the cultural histories of your employees and how to lead them creates greater opportunities for you