16 March 2017

Managing cultural diversity as leaders

London Business School experts have explored ways to eliminate bias and turn human potential into reality.

According to the London Business School, workplace diversity matters. Homogenous teams might feel comfortable, but comfort is not necessarily good for performance compared to enriching teams with people from different backgrounds and with broad perspectives.

Steering a diverse team to success takes skill. Leaders must establish trust in teams so that team members feel they can express their creativity and generate great ideas. Randall S Peterson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, explores how leaders foster ambition and banish fear: “Good leadership looks different around the world. While every team has to achieve certain standards to be successful, culture determines the approach.

"Compared to the West, groups in China are more collectivist, which means there is an emphasis on fitting in over standing out individually. Leading teams here is quite a balancing act: you have to ask questions to get information from people. If you ask too many questions, you appear weak and undermine your own legitimacy. If you ask too (few), you don’t encourage new thinking. The ultimate question here as a leader therefore is: how do I pull people together?”

Leadership is driven by a combination of competence, power and attraction, the London Business School notes, but bridging cultural differences demands emotional intelligence. The key, according to Professor Peterson, is in bringing these components together. Diversity is not easy to manage, but is key to achieving a top-performing and world-class team.

Niro Sivanathan, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, said: “Is leading a team of individuals an oxymoron? We believe not. It is possible to satisfy both the need to belong and the need to be unique in an individualistic group by having strong, consistently-held values that help unite a team. To do that, construct a model that says: we’re all individuals, we’re all united.

"When diversity feels uncomfortable, there’s a tendency to ignore the reasons behind our differences. A balance can be achieved by creating a common sense of ‘we’ that allows difference within it.”

And despite the many stigmas often associated with narcissists, Professor Peterson believes that there are times where it may be beneficial to have a narcissist on your team, especially when a major transformation is needed:

“Narcissists have the vision and charisma to create a committed group of followers and can be essential to creating organisational change. Most of us think of what is called the ‘agentic narcissist’: these are people who believe that they are far more competent than others. But what if this person’s outsized confidence is based on being the best helper, the best advice-giver or the best group member? These people are called ‘communal narcissists’.

“We find that communal narcissists are four times more likely to share credit and resources and significantly less likely to cause unhelpful conflict than agentic narcissists, who focus mostly on status self-enhancement. They are 33% more likely to be seen as a leader by other group members and significantly more likely to lead their team to a successful outcome. Like all types of leadership, narcissists have their time and their place. Get it right, and you reap the benefit of visionary leadership. Get that wrong, and suffer the consequences of status conflict and poor performance.”

posted from Bloggeroid