Tools Deepening Cross Cultural Collaboration and Leadership

Tools Deepening Cross Cultural Collaboration and Leadership

Nancy D. Erbe (California State University – Dominguez Hills, USA) and Swaranjit Singh (Independent Researcher, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8376-1.ch001
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The authors have led cross cultural collaboration in their organizations for twenty two and thirty years respectively. They have also been in a cross cultural partnership for the last decade. In this chapter they share the practices, attitudes and insights earned over years of cross cultural collaboration with an emphasis on professional reflective practice, or evaluation of impact, and tools and skills from the interdisciplinary field of negotiation, conflict resolution and peace building. Based on their experience, particularly author Erbe's work with those from an estimated eighty countries, they advocate these practices for all cross cultural collaboration and leadership in modern organizations. Rather than introduce relevant literature and research separately from pragmatic tools, the chapter integrates scholarship to help explain skills and empower readers to immediately begin practicing what is advocated here.
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We live in interesting and dynamic times. Increasingly, organizations of all kinds, public, non profit, for profit, both small and large, are globally crossing cultural boundaries in employees, markets and other constituents. Yet organizational practices are not necessarily keeping pace with this challenging change. It is not uncommon to hear contemporary stakeholders assert that business culture as one example transcends and unites all difference—much like diplomatic culture (Erbe, 2014). These stakeholders assume that all are committed to polite surface discourse and that such commitment eliminates the need for understanding difference. To some degree, these assumptions do explain how global business and diplomacy are able to occur in spite of myriad and vast cultural differences. At the same time, they may be used to tolerate; even justify, an inability to progress further: to acknowledge cultural difference with the belief that all might benefit from deeper appreciation and understanding; that innovation as one instance could exponentially flourish as a result. Alternatively, leaders of business and diplomatic organizations might actually fool themselves that material profit and superficial manners are sufficient. To paraphrase a Japanese manager recently quoted by one of our students, just because an employee is polite across culture does not mean that they like or even respect the person they are tolerating. In fact, a focus on profit alone or surface manners may mask preference for one’s own cultural approach and an insistence that this cultural approach dominate all organizational transactions. It could also simply be that those concerned are naive or simply do not know any other approach to organizational leadership. In short, they do not know how to collaborate across culture.

This book and chapter aspire to fill this critical gap in organizational knowledge and practice forleaders seeking ways to truly embrace cross cultural potential and facilitate productive collaboration. It provides several topics for organizational reflection and tools to assist with development of cross cultural collaboration and leadership. Together they can be used to enhance organizations at many levels of progress or challenge, including an organization troubled by power abuse.

For the purposes of this chapter, collaboration will be defined simply as the constructive management of difference (Gray, 1989). Since the interdisciplinary field of NCRP will be at the chapter’s heart, several of its communication processes and creative problem solving tools will be used to elaborate and demonstrate this constructive management. The management described is team, partnership and relationship based with co facilitation and mutual influence for shared gain rather than any type of top down or hierarchical approach.

The authors have led cross cultural collaboration for twenty to thirty years each. Author Singh has led perhaps the most culturally diverse organization throughout the world: the military. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after serving in the army for over twenty years. Author Erbe has led cross cultural dialogue since the early 1980s and has taught the leadership of cross cultural and multicultural collaboration for almost twenty years. Author Singh and Erbe will share proven practices from their leadership experience as well as their cross cultural partnership of the last decade. Rather than introduce relevant literature and research separate from cross cultural practices, skills and tools, they will intertwine literature with pragmatic approaches. We hope to thus explain, illuminate and reinforce these applied steps to effective cross cultural collaboration and leadership so readers are prepared and inspired to practice.

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