Communication, Culture, and Discord: A Lesson in Leadership Failure

Communication, Culture, and Discord: A Lesson in Leadership Failure

Keith Jackson (University of London, UK) and Reema Rasheed (Economic and Social Development Center of Palestine, Palestine)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9970-0.ch010
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This case study highlights and examines an avoidable failure of management communication and leadership in a non-governmental organization (NGO). The case study draws on a real-life example of a NGO that was established in Palestine with European Union (EU) funding and that became subsequently staffed by a team composed of local Palestinian employees and expatriate non-Palestinians who, as is commonly the case in international NGOs, were appointed to executive management and leadership roles. Overall, this case study highlights processes of cross-cultural communication between the local employees, the expatriate employees, and (indirectly) with senior executives of the EU funding agencies, whose distant yet decisive influence give a broader context to the localized communication and conflict management processes described and analyzed here. Finally, recommendations are made for future research specific to effective communication, leadership and conflict resolution in international organizations generally and in Palestinian organizations specifically.
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In contexts for organizational behavior and management Robbins (2005:422) defines ‘conflict’ as:

A process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affect, something that the first party cares about

The emphasis Robbins gives here to perception is vital; for here we can recognize perception as a natural human propensity to process and interpret information coming though the senses, notably sight, hearing, touch, taste and the elusive fifth sense of intuition (Gleitman, 2001). In relation to conflict, perception works intuitively as a survival mechanism, guiding human beings and animals towards choosing to meet conflict head on or flee (Sperber, 1995). As individuals, we are each socialized into one or other cultures: for example, within the family, at school. It is through the experience of socialization that our perceptions of what is ‘normal’ or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are formed.

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