Chapter Fourteen. Best Practices in Cross-Cultural Leadership

Mary B. Teagarden


The Jack Welch of the Future cannot be like me. I spent my entire career in the United States. The next head of General Electric will be somebody who spent time in Bombay, in Hong Kong, in Buenos Aires. We have to send our best and brightest overseas and make sure they have training that will allow them to be the global leaders who will make GE flourish in the future.

 --Jack Welch, Global Explorers (1999)[1]

The need for effective cross-cultural leadership is not a recent business challenge. As the nature and scope of international business has evolved in recent decades, so has the way we consider the skills required of leaders in the international, or more recently global, business environment. In the late 1980s and 1990s the need for effective cross-cultural leadership was highlighted by business expansion into Asia, especially China, just as it had been highlighted in the 1970s and 1980s by expansion into Europe. More important, during the 1990s the emphasis shifted from a European, Latin American, or Asian “regional specialist” focus that complemented the international perspective of earlier times to a global or pan-regional focus. The days of the “old China hand” or the Mexico specialist with deep local cross-cultural knowledge and competency are fading and giving way to “globalists” with sophisticated, portable transcultural competency. The importance of this shift cannot be overlooked: ...

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