Leadership Skills

My clients have global leadership roles. When I inquire and ask them to describe their leadership style, I get a wide range of responses : I am open and tolerant, I seek consensus or I am a servant leader. When I look at the literature, leadership is a theme that sparks a wide interest and evolves over time. When I was a MBA student, transformational leaders were in fashion. When I did some research, Globe Project found that an effective leader must meet his followers' cultural expectations. This means that leadership qualities and specifics vary across cultures. From then on, many firms have requested global leadership skills training . I have helped a number of leaders flexing their leadership style to meet the expectations of staff from another subsidiary. I continue to do so.

I thought that we had come to an agreement that leadership qualities are not universal.

However,  recently a joint exercice with colleagues from the intercultural field brought leadership at the centre of a new collaborative research project. That is how I discovered that today, empathetic leadership is in fashion! My broad experience in international businesses told me to be cautious with this new fashion. It very much looks like the concept of empathetic leadership comes from some Western minds rooted in cultures where transactions rule work collaborations. In these societies, leaders might be too process-oriented and therefore not enough people-oriented. In these societies, it is beneficial for leaders to develop some empathy in order to succeed with their teams. There are however other societies where empathy is a prevalent social skill and therefore less likely to be absent from leaders' range of skills. It is even likely that a leader from a society where empathy is a social norm may have to become less empathetic with foreign colleagues from transactional cultures. The need to connect effective leadership with the followers' work culture can help students and practicioners assessing whether and when empathetic leadership is a legitimate concept and how to get prepared to lead international and diverse teams.

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