Emotional & Cultural Intelligence – The Secret Ingredients of Successful Global Leadership

In the last decade there has been a growing awareness that the most vital quality for leadership success in globalized environments is a synthesis of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Cultural Intelligence (CQ). These are imperative to the creation of dynamic and effective cross cultural partnerships.   Emotional Intelligence is our depth of self-awareness, our ability to manage our own emotions, and our internal capacity to intuitively navigate diverse social environments. This is the profoundly personal aspect of what research has found to be the necessary foundation for superior leadership performance. Cultural Intelligence (CQ) on the other hand is the ability to read the map of expectations, customs, body language, relational dynamics, and power structures inherent in a cross cultural environment.

Both Emotional & Cultural Intelligence can be tested with standardized instruments and developed through training as well as a commitment to personal development. The four components of EQ are:

  • Self-Knowledge is the recognition of how our own emotions affect our thinking and reactions. How do we engage change and stress? Can we quickly label and understand our emotions? What are our strengths and liabilities, particularly when faced with the unfamiliar? Do we have the humility and maturity to be authentic as we engage new relationships? In the stress of unfamiliar cultural environments the temptation to operate artificially on the basis of our emotional discomfort increases. At a recent summit on EQ at the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence Lady Gaga, the featured speaker, confessed, “I invented myself, I curated my life to be an expression of my pain”. She is not alone.
  • Self-management is the ability to manage emotions particularly through strategies to reduce immediate stress in unanticipated situations. Can we take the initiative and keep commitments with integrity while adapting to the uncertainty of change? Can we reduce our impulsive responses and give ourselves time to be intentional.
  • Social awareness requires the practice of empathy that enables us to understand the emotional cues, needs, and power dynamics of both individuals and their organizations. What are they feeling and why? How is our presence in the situation affecting them? Are there stories best left untold?
  • Relational management requires that we be motivated by a genuine desire to develop relationships of trust. Are we authentic in the present or masked in our own protective insularity perhaps through insecurity? Are we communicating clearly in a way that affirms others, builds confidence, and leads to inspiration and influence?

While EQ involves looking inward, Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the vision to see the global environment and interpret both its particulars and patterns quickly and accurately. The early assumption of globalization was that as the world was woven together through telecommunications, rapid transportation and the internet, there would be greater homogenization and global integration. Such has not proven entirely to be the case and the reality is more tidal with currents of commonality, distinction and dissonance flowing unpredictably.

One model being used for the application of EQ is a cone shaped continuum moving from our “core”, those values we hold non-negotiable (faith, family, personal ethics, cultural identity) and “flex” , the extent of our aptitude for personal change in cross cultural relationships. EQ grows with balance between the two. High CQ leaders see heterogeneity and difference as Inspiring, rich, exciting and full of potential. They can build collaborative relationships capable of negotiating differences and solving messy problems. Cultural Intelligence is often measured using versions of a common assessment tool, (available at thc Cultural Intelligence Portal, http://cq-portal.com/v8/participant/index.php ) which measures four areas of capability:

CQ-Drive. This measures curiosity and desire to engage cultural diversity. Are you highly motivated to derive enjoyment and personal growth from culturally diverse experiences?

CQ –Knowledge. The ability to readily perceive how cultures are both similar and different by reading them intuitively and through investigation. It is this ability to match similarities and adapt to differences that enables hundreds of farmers from Northeast Thailand to commute during their slow season to Lapland in Northern Finland to harvest Cloudberries and Lingonberries as successful independent entrepreneurs. How quickly can you assimilate knowledge of local values, appropriate social interactions, religious beliefs, rules of non-verbal behavior, as well as the language itself?   This involves the surrender of assumptions especially the assumption that “our ways” are superior or even normative. Following the terrible earthquake in Sichuan, China in 2008, several U.S. companies doing business in China featured black mourning pages on their websites, missing the fact that the color of mourning in China is white and black is the color of the Dao – which connotes the ordinary rhythm of daily life.

CQ – Strategy. How do you evaluate and integrate your culturally diverse experiences and knowledge? How do you appropriate indigenous values, perceptions, methods, and systems to maximize communication and achieve success? How do you empower those with whom you are collaborating to achieve your goals? Following the crisis of September 11, 2001, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice ordered the diplomatic corp to take temporary assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, or Angola, gain expertise in at least two different regions and become fluent in either Chinese, Arabic or Urdu. She called this strategy “Transformational Diplomacy.”

CQ – Action. How do you adapt your personal behavior? To quote St Augustine of Hippo (In North Africa, 400 A.D): “When I go to Rome, I follow the custom of Rome so as not to give or receive scandal”. Are you able to implement your CQ to integrate into the cross cultural setting fluidly without compromising the integrity of your “core”? To learn how to bow correctly and smile in Japan and leave the high five in Chicago, simply requires some CQ.

The growth of a higher EQ and CQ then is more an intentional personal discipline than either a natural aptitude or easily acquired skill, but employed together they become a powerful approach to leadership that is essential for those who will shape the future in our rapidly changing world.