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Leadership Style In A Multicultural Context – An Area With High Potential For Overestimation

Written by: Tatjana Gaspar, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Tatjana Gaspar

In your everyday life, how much do you notice that our society has become highly multicultural? Over the past 60 years, migration around the world has steadily accelerated and increased. The word “to migrate” comes from the Latin word “migrare”: to wander, to move from one place to another. While some decide to emigrate voluntarily, usually with a fixed destination and clear plans in mind, others have no choice but to flee their homeland in the hope of building a more stable future elsewhere - wherever they may arrive.

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Furthermore, there are those sent abroad by their companies, for example to a subsidiary, which is usually seen as an opportunity to advance on the career ladder and is accompanied by a well-established support structure.


Regardless of their reason for leaving to go elsewhere, all these people take their culture with them and are confronted with a different culture at their destination. While we differentiate between migrants, refugees, emigrants, and expats, these groups have in common that they consist of individuals who have all traveled from A to B with highly complex backgrounds and a wide variety of expectations for a better and more successful life.


Almost no country is exempt from some aspect of migration; my home Switzerland has also become an immigration country with a great cultural mix. When we hear the word “migration” we think of political, economic, or social consequences for those who arrive somewhere and the society that receives them. Finally, complex systems with cross-border multicultural teams or target audiences must also be mentioned, e.g., large corporations that operate worldwide and companies with an international customer base.


Let’s look at the challenge that managers must face if they want to deal appropriately and constructively with the prevailing cultural diversity. For example, how do you reconcile the effective leadership of a multicultural, cross-border team with the quantitative targets that are set at a central level? How do you ensure that the same understanding of the common cause is achieved everywhere and with everybody from North to South, from East to West, regardless of the different cultural understanding of one’s boundaries and freedom? What impact does a different cultural understanding have on the readiness for cooperation and thus on corporate results?


If you want to create healthy disruption and achieve a positive result as a leader in a complex system, there is no way around the continuous exchange of best practices at all levels and respectful, inclusive interaction with peers and subordinates, which enables everyone to learn from each other. On the other hand, the willingness to take best practices into account will only appear and be sustainable in the long term if it is based on profound self-reflection, total openness, and a portion of authentic humility on the part of the leader.


So why is it that, despite all knowledge (in theory) of these facts, managers in practice so often overestimate their competence and capability usually with detrimental consequences for the company? Overconfidence among managers is often, but not necessarily always, correlated with higher education, rank, and professional experience. It is said that overconfidence is one of the most common reasons why people fail on a large scale.

Forgetting all caution and common sense, they trust that they are better than they are and accept risks that they can neither properly assess nor bear. So, what does it have to do with? Is it conceivable that a general depreciation of human values and needs, an overwhelming personal ambition, an inability to compromise, or simply a lack of intercultural understanding is responsible and that this ultimately results in an overall inappropriate leadership style?

What do you think?


I am convinced that of all the above, intercultural understanding is the one aspect that can be learned and trained, starting with putting aside one’s own entrenched opinions and everything that one has previously taken for granted, absolute, and given, and replacing it with a culture of listening and asking questions. Once we know more about each other, the next step of finding parallels, similarities, or common ground does not seem that far away any longer, does it? And wouldn’t you agree that nothing is more important?

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Tatjana Gaspar Brainz Magazine

Tatjana Gaspar, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Tatjana Gaspar is a certified Systemic Coach and Online Trainer who uses methods that focus on the clients’ individual goals, thus aiming at improving their business or life situation. She is also the CEO of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Switzerland, where she organizes events, hosts webinars and is responsible for operational and financial issues. Before coaching, she spent 20 years in international wealth management and leadership positions with different banks in Zurich. Initially, Tatjana obtained a Degree in Hispanic and Russian Literature and History from the University of Geneva. She is a firm believer in life-long learning and fluent in seven languages.


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