Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Minding Your Cultural Gap for Leadership

One of the key to leadership is understanding other people's culture. For example people who live in a Japanese culture have different ways of understanding of communicating their ideas. Yes, even those who were born and raised in America but with strong immigrant parents tends to have high context cultural gap. Americans just confidently speak up their mind but most Japanese or most Asian culture (like myself from the Philippines) tends to "read the atmosphere" or tends not to express well but rather interpret people's body language more (this goes with French people as well). Check out your cultural literacy. Use this free 20 assessment questionnaire - it is well worth knowing yours (Harvard Business hyperlink below the end of my discussion).
A few examples when I was in Japan after only being in America for 2 years, I can relate to many of the instances when Japanese who have high context culture (like most Asians including Philippines where I grew up) tends to be quiet after a discussion, just like me I was hesitant to ask questions right away.
A little over twenty five years later (fortunately or unfortunately) I have adapted some of the American cultures who have low context culture (likes to speak up and does not read between the lines and don't allow quiet pause during conversation).  These sometimes create a disconnection in many (still after 25 years of being an American) conversations specially because I communicate in a very Filipino culture at home.
It is funny but I tend to get along with people who grew up in a city where they are surrounded with diverse group of people, like New York City or Los Angeles. Most of them were exposed to various culture and myself who grew up in Manila for over 2.5 decades and then 2.5 decades from America tend to be aware of the many cultural manifestations of those people around me.  I still have a long way to learn though, I just have to be aware "where the other person" grew up most of their life and then I can understand and communicate better.
Knowing these cultural map - will help you understand and better your people and leadership skills Credit goes to Erin Meyer - developer of Culture Gap.
  • More on Culture Gap at
  • For 20 question assessment go to Harvard Business Review website at:
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