Leadership Series, Part 3: Paradox and Global Work

where in the world will you go abroad to teach

“The New World of global business requires that all leaders be explorers!” — Stewart Black”ID-100182348

Other blog articles have stressed the important of managing complexity and accepting ambiguity for individuals who hope to succeed in a global arena. This is something in which those of us raised and trained in traditional Western ways of thinking are at a distinct disadvantage, because we’ve been taught that we must choose between the available options. To our discomfort, however, intercultural situations often require us to learn to balance instead.

Paradoxes commonly encountered in global work include:

  • Focusing on creating results while building relationships
  • Listening to many perspectives while expressing well-defined opinions
  • Maintaining a global mindset while maintaining awareness of local issues
  • Understanding group characteristics while appreciating individual uniqueness
  • Cultivating an openness to unique and new ideas while still being decisive
  • Maintaining personal clarity and consistency while developing flexibility to deal with diverse situations
  • Cultivating humility to continue to learn in new situations while maintaining strong confidence in personal ability.

Thinking about the many contradictory elements that must be balanced to be effective in intercultural contexts can be overwhelming. There are no easy answers to questions like these, and no fast-track way to develop skills to balance opposing forces.

Researchers agree that the following five suggestions can help individuals deal productively with paradoxes such as these.

  1. Cultivate being instead of always doing
  2. Become more aware of your inner states
  3. Develop a positive mindset
  4. Become aware of negative stereotypes and cultivate an appreciation for uniqueness
  5. Learn to embrace ambiguity as an opening for inspiration and new possibilities to arise

More suggestions for how to develop these skills will be addressed in future blog posts. For now, just recognizing that these mindset and behavioral shifts are helpful, and finding any way you can to incorporate them into your life, is a good start.

— by  Desiree Beauchamp

(based on Holt, K. and Kyoko, S. (2012). Global leadership:   a developmental shift for everyone. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 5(2012), 196-215.)

To read more of our Leadership Series, check out these articles:

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About The Author

Desiree Beauchamp

Teacher, trainer, coach, consultant. Find out more about me at: About Us