Coordinating Meaning and Joint Identity: Cultivating Leadership and Cross-Cultural Communication in a Divided Community

Coordinating Meaning and Joint Identity: Cultivating Leadership and Cross-Cultural Communication in a Divided Community

Samuel Peleg (Rutgers University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8376-1.ch002


This chapter is based on an ongoing research of intercultural relationships in a mixed Jewish-Arab town in Israel. The goal of the project is to establish patterns of constructive communication between the two groups, using the methods and models of Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) practical theory (Pearce, 1997) to promote the viability and sustainability of the community. Our case-study depicts Jews and Arabs in the human organization called the town of Ramla, where two cultural communities are divided along several reinforcing rifts including ethnic, religious, lingual and cultural (Horowitz & Lissak, 1989). These dissimilar backgrounds generate psychological, emotional and communicational difficulties, which encumber coexistence and impairs prosperity for the town's 62,000 residents. The keys to grapple with such challenges are prudent and inspiring leadership and effective cross-cultural collaboration. These two goals—finding adept leaders and establishing cross-cultural cooperation--are primary in the strategic intervention in the divided society of Ramla.
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B. Leadership As A Leaders-Followers Nexus

Several key terms and concepts converge in the Ramla Project: communication, culture, identity, conflict, acculturation and leadership (Peleg, 2010). They are all linked and jointly supply the theoretical backbone for this experiment. Communication is understood in an existential and substantive way rather than instrumental: it is the explaining factor which ties together human behavior. Communication is the opportunity and the path to construct reciprocal reality, shared and mutually accepted by people who decide to live together: a couple, family, tribesmen, a nation, a culture (Pearce & Littlejohn, 1997; Pearce, 2007). Culture is a system which facilitates and promotes communal life and carries the potential of transforming divergence to coexistence. In other words, culture is “the tending of natural growth” (Williams, 1970). This chapter describes an endeavor to promote meaningful change in cross-cultural relationships between Jews and Arabs. Leadership is the decisive factor in the success or failure of change processes. This is valid to all types of human engagement including family, business, politics, education and spiritual (Ahmad, Franciss, & Zairi, 2007; Sommers & Nelson, 2001; Yukl, 2001) .The common human default is status-quo; change can be daunting and unnerving. It takes people who deviate from conventionality to harbinger breakthroughs in every field of human progress. Overcoming categorical thinking and vestiges of animosity and hostility should be exercised with prudence and caution by people who can motivate, animate and empower others. In short, reconciliation is best handled by visionary, passionate and responsible leaders. But what is the most effective kind of leadership to be employed in an intercultural conflict, in which two communities share the same sociopolitical space? What is the basis of authority from which leaders of cross-cultural communication spring?

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