Sample Process Essay: Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become a Successful Cross-Cultural Leader

EssayProcess Essay

Cross-cultural leadership is an essential form of management in the age of globalization. Companies have begun to expand their operations to international scales which leads to cross-cultural organizations. Globalization along with the  social impact of the Internet has made these international operations easier to develop and oversee. However, not all managers have the qualities of a successful cross-cultural leader. An effective manager in a localized environment may be ineffective in dealing with cultural issues and empathizing with employees. A successful cross-cultural leader will need to conduct a self-assessment, learn about other cultures, balance different cultures, address communication barriers, interact with employees, and understand that cross-cultural employees are individuals.

Benefits of a Cross-Cultural Workplace

Organizations have varying reasons for developing a cross-cultural workplace. Cross-cultural managers must understand these reasons to become better leaders. According to a Maryville University infographic, a cross-cultural workplace can experience greater innovations, better reputation, increased creativity, improved productivity, and increased profits. A culturally diverse team can offer an organization unique perspectives in problem-solving which can lead to significant innovations, creativity, and productivity. This performance boost can further lead to an increase in profits due to efficient solutions to organizational problems. Additionally, a culturally diverse organization will notify the public that the company does not discriminate and is willing to work with other cultures. These benefits show the importance of developing a cross-cultural workplace to an organization’s performance and image.

Steps to Become a Successful Cross-Cultural Leader

Conduct a Self-Assessment

An organization will assign a manager to a cross-cultural environment due to their qualifications and experiences in management. However, not all experienced managers can be successful cross-cultural leaders. According to Boonstra (2019), a successful cross-cultural leader utilizes value-driven leadership, adaptive leadership, meaningful leadership, social leadership, and confident leadership. A value-driven leadership focuses on establishing integrity while making difficult decisions. Adaptive leadership is a style that promotes a reactive approach to changes in an organization. Meaningful leadership is when a leader unifies subordinates through the pursuit of a specific goal. Social leadership promotes interactivity and values diversity. Lastly, confident leadership refers to a style where a leader utilizes high self-awareness to make decisions. These different types of leadership approaches are necessary for the efficiency of a cross-cultural leader as they promote healthy practices in the workplace. 

A cross-cultural leader must conduct a self-assessment to identify if they possess these leadership qualities and have the potential to be an effective manager. Styles like confident leadership and social leadership are ideal qualities for a cross-cultural leader. They promote a close superior-manager relationship and awareness of possible bias. Possessing and exercising the other styles will also be beneficial to a manager. When conducting a self-assessment, a leader should not only identify these qualities but learn about their biases and existing knowledge of other cultures. The self-assessment will allow leaders to assess if they are fit for the position. It will provide them with information regarding the leadership aspects that they need to improve and develop. Self-assessment should be one of the first few steps that a cross-cultural leader conducts to become successful.

Learn About Other Cultures

Once cross-cultural leaders have conducted a self-assessment and identified their weaknesses, they can proceed with learning about other cultures. This step is necessary to understand the behaviors, practices, and other qualities of employees. Leaders will need to identify the specific culture of their employees and aim to understand some aspects of their religion, language, social norms, and beliefs. While some managers may aim to learn a different language, it is important to note that learning socialization norms can be more beneficial (Livermore, as cited in Savage, 2018). Socialization norms can be behaviors that are common in particular cultures that show signs of respect, confidence, and goodwill. They can be behaviors like eye contact, hand gestures, and adjusting to personal space. Learning these types of cultural behavior will allow leaders to better communicate with their employees without spending long hours studying a new language. 

Balance Different Cultures

Once cross-cultural leaders have learned about other cultures, they can effectively develop strategies to balance cultural diversity in the workplace . Cross-cultural employees believe that a common language, harmonious working relationships, and one-on-one engagements are effective ways to balance two cultures (Jayasundera & George, 2017). Establishing a common language in a cross-cultural workplace can be beneficial in addressing communication barriers. It can avert misunderstanding and promote transparency in the workplace. Most cross-cultural organizations may tend to utilize English as a common language since most countries teach it early in education. A common language will also encourage harmonious working relationships since it will allow employees to effectively communicate with one another. One-on-one engagement is another useful method in balancing cultures as leaders can assess the cultural needs of their employees. 

Promoting collectivism in the workplace can be an effective method of balancing different cultures and promoting harmonious work relationships. Employees in a collective organization will perceive their co-workers as an extension of their family (Kececi, 2017). They will develop close relationships that encourage them to be aware of the well-being of co-workers. They will be more accepting of cultural balances or compromise in the workplace. For example, an employee may need to delegate their task to a co-worker due to a cultural holiday. Individualistic co-workers may negatively react to the delegation while a collective team will be understanding of the situation. Cross-cultural leaders may experience improved employee loyalty when they promote collectivism which can contribute to their success in cross-cultural management.

Address Communication Barriers

Aside from balancing different cultures, it is necessary to address the communication barriers present in a cross-cultural environment. Language is a common communication barrier, however, the availability of the English language allows organizations to easily establish a common language in the workplace. According to Tripathy (2019), the main barriers in cross-cultural communication are cultural stereotypes and ethnocentrism. Cultural stereotypes are discriminative ideas or beliefs that individuals have towards a particular culture. Stereotyping is often due to common public beliefs about a specific culture. A cross-cultural leader will need to discourage cultural stereotyping in the workplace to ensure that employees do not engage in discriminative behaviors. Additionally, cross-cultural leaders’ self-assessment will refrain them from exhibiting stereotyping behaviors.

The second main cross-cultural communication barrier that leaders need to address is ethnocentrism. This is the belief that an individual’s culture is the center of all things. Ethnocentric individuals may exhibit self-centered behaviors and disregard the cultural needs of others. This behavior can be harmful in a cross-cultural environment as it leads to conflicts between co-workers. An employee may perceive their co-worker as inferior to them due to ethnocentrism. Cross-cultural leaders will need to identify ethnocentric employees and develop strategies to address their behaviors. They can implement seminars, one-on-one interviews, and group sessions. Addressing cultural stereotypes and ethnocentrism will be an integral part of becoming a successful cross-cultural leader.

Close Interaction with Employees

A cross-cultural leader will need to have close interaction with employees to achieve a balanced culture and address communication barriers. According to Jain & Pareek (2019), cross-cultural leaders can solve cross-cultural management issues through orientation, support, and guarantees. These solutions are actions that encourage managers to interact with their employees. Orientations regarding proper behavior in a cross-cultural environment will allow a manager to establish a standard that promotes healthy relationships among different cultures . They can orient employees about specific cultural practices and avoid misbehaviors. Supportive actions and guarantees can help employees feel comfortable and well-treated. These interactions should include one-on-one engagements as employees prefer them during conflict resolutions (Jayasundera & Gerorge, 2017). During these engagements, cross-cultural leaders must aim to identify the needs of their employees and create decisions that will benefit the organization while also catering to cultural needs. Close interaction with employees will allow managers to develop healthy work relationships and promote collectivism in the organization.

Understand that Employees are Individuals

Along with close interactions with employees, cross-cultural managers must understand that employees are individual members of a culture. They have their own belief, personalities, and preferences which can be different from their cultural background (Cross-cultural leadership, n.d.). Treating an employee solely on their  cultural identity can be a form of cultural stereotype, which is one of the main cross-cultural communication barriers. An inexperienced cross-cultural leader may create decisions solely on cultural factors which can lead to unnecessary regulations or activities. They may forget that an employee can have different beliefs from their culture. Instead, cross-cultural managers should engage in one-on-one interviews with their employees to assess their personal beliefs and personalities. This way, cross-cultural leaders can perceive their employees as individual members of the organization instead of having different cultural identities. They will be able to effectively assess performance without cultural bias and ensure that they treat each employee equally. Understanding that employees are individuals can greatly help cross-cultural leaders become successful managers.


Becoming a successful cross-cultural leader can be difficult due to cross-cultural management issues. Leaders will need to conduct a self-assessment, learn about other cultures, balance different cultures, address communication barriers, interact with employees, and understand that cross-cultural employees are individuals. Following these steps will allow cross-cultural managers to develop effective leadership styles, healthy work relationships, and equal treatment of employees. While the steps are useful, cross-cultural leaders will face unique conflicts and must learn to adapt their approach to become successful managers.

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Savage, M. (2018). Is Cultural Knowledge More Important than Language Skills? [Online]. BBC. Available at Accessed December 8, 2021.

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