I have that wallet issue again. Different currencies from countries far away, leftovers of recent trips, are piling up inside it and I am looking for the best way to make use of them. I look at those foreign notes, many of them very colorful and much more interesting than our dull Euros, and I realize how pretty they are, and how much of a culture’s identity is expressed in its currency if you take time to study it thoroughly (well that might also be a reason why I find Euros boring – do we really have something like a European identity?).
There are also differences in what types of pictures and symbols go on currencies. Those pictures convey things that are important in the respective country and culture. The US notes all feature past presidents, the founders of the republic. As a non-American, this reinforces my impression about the leadership in the US being heavily person focused, influenced by ideals and ideas, and the importance of an entrepreneurial attitude. Euro notes all feature bridges, emphasizing the need to build bridges across the many boundaries between the different cultures in Europe, as well as the pride in creating something based on craftsmanship, art and a joint vision. Brazilian Reais display regional fauna, showing the role of nature in this vast country, and on the other side a human effigy wearing laurels – but an effigy of a fictitious persona, the republic itself. I take this as a sign that in Brazil, the currency reminds us that institutions and ideas can transcend the importance of any individual person alone.
As different as their currencies are these cultures’ ideas about leadership. Just think how differently leadership happens in a culture that glorifies leaders of the past, versus a culture that only depicts a fictitious head of the republic, or a culture (if you can call it that) that doesn’t depict any humans whatsoever? Research has shown that there are vast differences in the expectations people have around the world regarding how outstanding leaders act, think, communicate, and interact. There simply isn’t one best way of leadership that works everywhere.
In the Center for Creative Leadership’s new 360-degree assessment, Global6, we capture these differences by asking raters about their expectations of outstanding leadership–before asking them to rate a specific manager. The assessment then contrasts how perceptions of a specific manager are aligned to raters’ expectations of leadership. And guess what–those that have the highest alignment get the best performance and promotability ratings. I am excited about this assessment as it offers a totally different approach to assessment for development – looking at “what people want” in a leader, rather than racing to get the highest scores on some specific competencies.
I’d also love to hear what your experiences are with leadership in other cultures or contexts. What insights did you have? What glorious mistakes did you make? Let’s share and learn together!