Cultural Quotient

The New Differentiator for a Successful Leader
Cultural Quotient
Cultural QuotientThe New Differentiator for a Successful Leader

Cultural Quotient: The New Differentiator for a Successful Leader

Sachin Adhikari

Does an opportunity to work in a foreign land excite you? Are you conscious of the sensitivities of your teammates concerning their religion or background?

If you are, then your chances of reaching the top of your organization are far more than if not. These traits, which are being sighted as the key differentiator between a good and a great leader, is your Cultural Quotient or CQ.

CQ measures the capability to function effectively in a variety of national, ethnic, and organizational settings. It's a form of intelligence that has been tested by academic researchers in more than 30 countries over nearly a decade and coined the term to keep up with the present age of globalization.

CQ is similar to IQ and EQ in that it quantifies a set of capabilities believed to be important to both personal and professional success. It is unique in that it focuses specifically on the skills needed for success in unfamiliar cultures.

Cultural intelligence is being described by experts as a core capability essential for success in 21st-century business and has attracted worldwide attention across diverse disciplines.

Research has examined what gives rise to cultural intelligence and looked at testing strategies that may lead to enhanced CQ.

Now the world is shrinking into one global village where organizations are spreading their businesses beyond geographical borders. This means that resources need to be equipped to handle different cultures and perform well under diverse situations.

Even if a position doesn't require any international travel, managers and HR departments are realizing the importance of having culturally savvy employees who can vigorously meet the challenges of serving a diverse customer base at home and abroad, as well as becoming effective participants of culturally diverse teams.

In addition, employers are finding that personnel with high CQ are not only more effective cross-culturally but also are more adaptable and innovative as they go about tasks within their cultural contexts.

Transformational training is a unique module that helps candidates develop their CQ in a way that enhances their professional performance. In our observation, these are some of the job-related traits that work for better individuals with higher CQ:

  • Decision Making: One reason why CQ can increase your job performance is that it results in better judgment and decision-making. Individuals with higher CQ are better at anticipating and managing risk and at making decisions that involve complex, multicultural dynamics.

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  • Negotiation: Being able to negotiate effectively across cultures is cited as one of the most important competencies needed in today's global workplace.

    Individuals with higher CQ are more successful at cross-cultural negotiations since this trait gives a better understanding of how to read the nonverbal cues during a negotiation and makes one more aware of how to motivate an individual or company from a different culture.

  • Networking: Needless to say, individuals who can successfully network and build relationships with individuals and organizations that span geographic, cultural, and ethnic boundaries will be sought after for their ability to know how to network effectively across varied contexts.

    In today's age, companies constantly depend on creative mergers and acquisitions across nations and are best facilitated by individuals who can build multicultural networks.

  • Global Leadership Effectiveness: Leaders need to effectively hire, motivate, and develop personnel from a variety of cultures. Even if he doesn't aspire to a primary leadership role, one's job performance certainly requires that he effectively influences and develops teams of culturally diverse participants.

    With higher levels of CQ, one is more likely to develop trust and effectively lead multicultural groups and projects at home or in other parts of the world

Employees can be trained to understand how to encounter new cultural situations, judge what goes on in them and make appropriate adjustments to understand and behave effectively in those otherwise disorienting circumstances.

Such discernment is becoming more and more critical, for a country like India where the government is inviting FDI in all sectors and also for successfully attaining the 'Make in India' policy which will require cross-border negotiations, understanding new markets, unifying dispersed leadership teams, and developing global marketing plans.

So we know and understand that CQ is important and can be enhanced. The immediate question that arises, is how? As mentioned, it is certainly possible through effective training. Transformational training, for instance, begins by assessing that person in terms of four distinct CQ capabilities:

  1. Motivation, which is the person's interest in and confidence in functioning effectively in culturally diverse settings and forms the core of such training

  2. Cognition- the person's knowledge of how cultures are similar and different which does not necessarily mean that one needs to be an expert on every culture but to understand fundamental cultural differences and their effects on everyday business.

  3. CQ Strategy which is basically how the person makes sense of culturally diverse experiences. This comes into play when making judgments about one's own or others' thought processes and makes it easier to draft effective planning in the context of cultural differences.

  4. Behavior- the person's capability to adapt his or her behavior to different cultures which requires having a flexible repertoire of responses to suit various situations while remaining true to one's self

It is important to note that just as in the case of IQ and EQ, it is very important to have robust assessment techniques that give an objective evaluation of one's CQ abilities to gauge development and progress.

This is also the best way to ensure that the weaknesses can be turned into strengths over some time, through personalized training metaphors. 

The author is India's first Transformational Training Designer and Chief Mentor of Viztar International Pvt Ltd. 

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