63
Chapter 4
STUDY THE TOPOGRAPHY: CQ KNOWLEDGE
(STEP 2A)
STEP 2: CQ KNOWLEDGE: What do I need to know?
Understanding cross-cultural issues and differences
Profile of a leader
with high CQ
knowledge:
Leaders high in CQ knowledge have a rich,
well-organized understanding of culture
and how it affects the way people think and
behave. They possess a repertoire of knowl-
edge in knowing how cultures are alike and
different. They understand how culture
shapes behavior.
64
Leading with Cultural Intelligence
“Can we please eat something normal tonight?!” It’s the kind
of question I’m pretty used to hearing, after having spent several
years working in and out of a lot of different cultural contexts. But
this time, the question was coming from my own daughter! My
family was along with me for a three-week work trip in Southeast
Asia. Although Western food was readily available in most of the
places we traveled, my wife and I were soaking up the chance to eat
some great Asian food. Looking straight into her brilliant blue eyes
I quickly retorted, “Emily. You want something normal? (insert lots
of emphasis and sarcasm on the word normal). “You cant get much
more normal than rice. Do you know how many people eat rice in
the world? That’s about as normal as you can get. Before I could
go any further, my wife gave me the look. You know the kind. She
didn’t have to say a word. I knew it meant something like, Save your
cross-cultural lecture for later. Let’s just buy them a burger and fries.
Two minutes later we were standing in line at Burger King. Not to
fear, in this case, it didnt cost me a contract with a client.
Ethnocentrism evaluating other people and their culture by
the standards of our own cultural preferences is found among
people everywhere. Seeing the world in light of our own cultural
background and experience is inevitable. However, ignoring the im-
pact of ethnocentrism on how we lead is the single greatest obstacle
to CQ knowledge. Most of us tend to underestimate the degree to
which we ourselves are a product of culture. It’s much easier to see it
in others. Emily’s question made explicit a guiding assumption for
many of us: My experience is what’s normal and best. Nowadays, Emily
is as quick to catch me in my cultural blind spots as I am her. The
other day we were driving by a fluorescent green house in a neighbor-
hood otherwise filled with earth tone–colored homes. “Now thats
just weird!” I blurted out. Emily chimed in, “Dad, dont you mean
different’?” Touché! I tend to be more sensitive and respectful of dif-
ferences in faraway places than I do when I encounter them closer to
home. Is it really such a big deal to think neon-colored homes and

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