In their words….

The last year as part of my EdD research, I had the pleasure of studying leadership cultural intelligence with a group of leaders that engaged as co-researchers in a 3 step reflective process. The following questions guided the work we did together.

How do international school leaders define cultural intelligence?
How do international school leaders demonstrate cultural intelligence in their work?
How does cultural intelligence influence the work of international school leaders?
What strategies, skills, and behaviors do international school leaders identify that support the development and application of leadership cultural intelligence?

What I found?

The acquisition of cultural intelligence is a continuous and introspective journey that requires awareness, intentionality, and endless effort.

None of the cultural intelligence factors exists in isolation, and international school leaders fluidly move between each element.

Data was categorized using Livermore and Van Dyne’s Four Factor Model (2015).

CQ Drive: Motivation to adapt in a cross-cultural setting

Leaders want:

* An authentic connection with others.
* Healthy and meaningful relationships with others based on trust and authenticity.
* To understand and consciously avoid making cultural mistakes.
* To develop their natural curiosity.

CQ Knowledge: Knowledge about cultures and the impact on daily interactions.

Leaders develop knowledge with

* Experience and change.
* A strong understanding of their own culture.
* A clear understanding of their bias, values, and beliefs.
* An understanding of cultural systems and frameworks. These must be reference points and not overgeneralized.
* Assimilation, immersion, research, and education in a cultural context.

CQ Strategy: Ability to observe, analyze, and apply the right strategy to a specific situation.

Leaders strategize by:

* Understanding the norms, nuances, and subtleties of situations and then have the
awareness to formulate an appropriate response.
* Listening, observing, questioning, analyzing, and applying the appropriate
strategy for the situation and context.
* Tuning into their emotions and those of others to gather background knowledge
appropriate to the situation.
* Culturally code-switching Molinsky (2007) and using their knowledge and experiences to mitigate conflicts and misunderstandings to change their and others’ behaviors.

CQ Action: Ability to behave in a culturally appropriate manner.

Leaders need:

* Flexibility, open-mindedness, adaptability, appreciation, and risk-taking.
* To formally and informally model and exemplify both verbal and nonverbal actions.

In the words of one of my participants, “developing an understanding that intercultural competencies are not an end but rather a journey-it’s like we are on a continuum constantly moving forwards and backward. There can never be an end to become a culturally competent person.”


Livermore, D., &Van Dyne, L. (2015). Cultural intelligence: the essential intelligence for the 21st century (pp. 1-44). Alexandria, VA: SHRM Foundation.

Molinsky, A. (2007). Cross-Cultural Code-Switching: The Psychological Challenges of Adapting Behavior in Foreign Cultural Interactions. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 622-640. doi:10.5465/amr.2007.24351878

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