Culture & The Executive

by | Aug 24, 2012 | Articles | 0 comments


The global economy demands executives to be able to work productively in culturally diverse societies and communicate effectively across international boundaries.

Culture is something learned.  It is practiced.  It represents a dynamic symbol used to interpret and navigate the world.

The need for cross-cultural skills is important as Internet-based technologies are changing the way people work together, allowing employees separated by geography and culture to communicate  with one another nearly anywhere in the world at any time.

The following skills can help the modern executive to succeed in a multicultural business environment:

  • Communication and Listening Skills

Successful executives should be proficient speakers and writers, both in their native languages and in the language of the company in which they are working.  Executives should also be able to truly listen to the people they are working with and carefully observe how business is done there.

  • Knowledge of the Economy

It is important to speak the language as well as understand the practices and issues of the economy.

  • Ability to Work Under Pressure

Valuable qualities of successful executives include the ability to meet impending deadlines quickly, use problem-solving skills to handle obstacles as they arise, and keep calm.

  • Empathy

When working among culturally diverse people, it is especially important to be able to “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”

  • Patience and Flexibility

When working in a multinational corporation, executives need to be observant and pay attention to the culture of the organization they are working in as well as that of the larger culture.  They also need to be tolerant of ambiguity and be willing to deal with opposing ideas.

  • Teamwork and Leadership

Executives are expected to work well as part of a team.  The qualities of taking the initiative, assertiveness, the ability to give and take advice and criticism, and creative and independent thinking — are highly valued in multinational companies.

  • Technology Skills

Executives at a minimum should be able to use computers, a variety of common software programs, and social media applications.  They must also be willing to learn continually and be flexible enough to adapt to new technologies.

  • Open-mindedness

This is the total perspective.  It is about legitimizing diverse views in an organization.

Companies got to be globally efficient and competitive by integrating activities and coordinating resources across national borders.  They also need to be sensitive and responsive to national differences in consumer tastes.  They need to learn country’s laws concerning ownership, taxes, and banking.  They should know their specialty.  They must know where best practice is and how to leverage it.

Today, “empowerment” is the key.  Executives’ role is more about creating an environment in which people can negotiate the best solution for the organization.

Executives need a perspective that allows them to look across the world and recognize commonalities or see opportunities for economies.  They need to know how to supervise staff from many different cultures around the world.  They should listen and observe carefully what is going on in their company.

Multinational corporations are powerful.  They operate across national borders.  With that power comes a huge responsibility to act as global citizens who contribute, to establish the confidence of society and individual consumers, and, to establish that they are worthy of their trust.