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Cultural Awareness & EQ Can Impact Leader Effectiveness

Both emotional intelligence (EI) and cultural awareness can have significant impacts on leaders’ communication styles and overall effectiveness.

July 7, 2021 3 minute read

Both emotional intelligence (EI) and cultural awareness can have significant impacts on leaders’ communication styles and overall effectiveness. Leaders lacking EI (i.e., having low emotional intelligence quotients or EQ) may struggle to regulate their own emotional responses as well as to recognize the emotional responses of others. Such a lack of self-regulation and cognizance of others can prove detrimental to leader effectiveness. Likewise, leaders lacking diverse knowledge of cultural norms around communication expose themselves to the possibility of inadvertently offending others as well as of taking offense to some communication that was intended to be inoffensive.

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Importance of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence involves the reciprocal relationship between people’s emotions (affective domain) and people’s thinking (cognitive domain). In contrast to intelligence, people’s ability to learn and apply information to life’s experiences and tasks, EQ involves the application of one’s understanding of emotions to life’s experiences and tasks. Leaders having adequate EQ will demonstrate three key abilities: (1) understanding and reasoning with emotions, (2) facilitating thinking using emotions, and (3) managing emotions effectively within oneself and one’s relationships. Leaders lacking these abilities may expose themselves to increased risk of unintentional damage to their own reputations and credibility, and their relationships with others, perhaps irreparably.

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Importance of cultural awareness

Culture is defined in this context as a dynamic, customary way of life consisting of a group of shared qualities and a collective accumulation of traditions, rules, norms, values, learned beliefs, and symbols common to a specific group of people, yet transmittable to other groups of people. Inevitably, as cultural diversity within today’s global marketplace continually expands, organizational leaders must be cognizant and empathetic to the diverse communication-related norms that derive from the original cultures of the members of the organization. Leaders lacking such awareness, empathy, and related adaptation skills may encounter similar risks as leaders lacking the aforementioned abilities relative to EQ.

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How about you?

Think of an example in which you have experienced an organizational leader who lacked either EQ or sufficient cultural awareness, making them unable to appropriately adapt their leadership style or communication style to the situation.

Let's talk about it. Share your experiences in the comments.

 

Sources

Gudykunst, W. B. & Ting-Toomey, S. (1988). Culture and interpersonal communication. Sage.

Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000). Models of emotional intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of intelligence (pp. 396–420). Cambridge University Press.

Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership theory and practice seventh edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.

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