Core and Flex

I used to think….. that leadership attributes and values were universal.

What I learned…..

Leaders must use both core and flex when it comes to the values of leadership as they relate to cultural intelligence.

Julia Middleton (2019) identifies two components that support the development of leadership cultural intelligence: Core and Flex

Core: These are the values you will not compromise. The hills you will die on. For me these are trust, transparency and authenticity.

Flex: These are the values you are willing to adapt based on the context or circumstances. For example for me in my current context I am required to act with authority. I like to make decisions collaboratively and it is a value that is important to me, however, I am willing in my current context to act with authority when it is expected of me in specific situations.

Leaders can assess their Core and Flex through a reflective exercise in Middleton’s (2019) book titled The Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Boundaries: Cultural Intelligence . This reflective practice asks leaders to consider things that they do not mind, things they would never do, and what assumptions others might make of you. She then asks you to rate your Core/Flex ratio based on the self assessment questions.

Middleton (2019) also talks about Knots. . Knots are our biases, preconceived notions, and our perceptions about others, cultures, race, religion, ethnicities, gender etc. To move beyond our bias we need to consciously unpack our knots.

As a leader I have been working to unpack some of my bias by listening to podcasts, participating in Twitter Chats, watching documentaries and reading a variety of sources around race and racism. I am working to uncover my inherent biases and where they stem from.

What are you learning?


Cultural Intelligence

Middleton, J. (2019). Cultural intelligence: The competitive edge for leaders crossing borders. London, England: Bloomsbury Business.

How to find your core?

Cultural Intelligence

Race and Racism


Austin Channing Brown I am Still Here Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

Jennifer L. Eberhardt Biased: Uncovering Hidden Prejudice that Effects What We See, think and Do


Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

Ibram X. Kendi on How to be an Antiracist

Laverne Cox on Transgender Representation, Advocacy and the Power of Love

Documentaries and Movies



The 13th

American Son

Hello Privilege, It’s me Chelsea

Twitter Chats




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