Archives For culture

As those of you who read my posts frequently know, I travel internationally a lot and I truly love experiencing other cultures and different ways of life! I have had the opportunity to return to Istanbul, Turkey for work on multiple occasions. I always feel as if I return to a city with an ever-evolving modern character that is still, at its core, bound by tradition. As I observe the frenzy of activity going on around me in the only city in the world that resides on two continents,  I often think about how there are unique leadership lessons inherent in every environment. If  we pay close attention, there is also learning inherent in each of these environments. It is easy to overlook the reminders that abound and I sometimes think to myself, “What can I learn from a country that has been riddled with unrest, struggles with human rights issues and is in a constant state of flux?” I it sometimes hard to see. Yes, these things are true… but it does not negate the fact that there are important reminders (lessons) that impact how we interact with people as leaders and how our views, as leaders, affect those around us. I have found that often, a change in scenery offers a valuable change in perspective.  Here are just a few of the things that came to my mind as I experienced, once again, one of the most amazing cities in the world:

  1. Business and personal relationships do not have to be mutually exclusive…

Living and visiting countries all over the world on a regular basis throughout most of my life, I remain very aware of how unique one location is from another. However, it also reminds me that despite the differences, there are some core foundations that we should all observe and incorporate. In our western culture, we tend to believe that work and life are separate. However in Istanbul, where East meets West, business and personal relationships are heavily intertwined.  The diversity and complexity of individuals is shaped not only by their culture, but through relationships that are consistently valued and continually evolve throughout a lifetime. As I attend client meetings focused solely on getting to know one another better, I am reminded how Turkish people usually only do business with people they know, like and respect.  In Turkey, business will only materialize if effective personal relationships are built. This is not only important in the moment, but throughout a lifetime. Later, as I visit the world famous Spice Bazaar, I am reminded once again how relationships can thread through our lives –  both as people and leaders – as I stop to chat with a shopkeeper and am invited in… not just for a sale, but to build a relationship. We chat for twenty minutes, shared some delicious apple tea (a hospitality must in Turkey), and exchange contact information. On my next visit will I stop in and purchase from Iskandar? Of course, but I will also recommend this particular shopkeeper to anyone I know visiting Istanbul!  As leaders, it seems to me that we could be infinitely more effective if we slowed down (both in our personal and professional lives), borrowed a page from the Turkish playbook, and took the time to get to know our colleagues on a more personal level – facilitating an extensive and priceless network of not only colleagues, but friends, that will benefit us for a lifetime.

2.      One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to learn from those above and teach those below…

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My husband and I lead missions trips to Haiti. As I was observing (and serving) in the poorest country in the western hemisphere,  I began to think about how there are some leadership lessons inherent in the environment in Haiti that most of us could stand to think about more often. You may think to yourself, “what can I learn from a country that has 90% unemployment and a 70% illiteracy rate?” These statistics are correct… and there are some important reminders (lessons) that impact how we interact with people as leaders and how far people are willing to go to serve you.

Here are just a few of the things that come to mind:

  1. Understand, you can’t possibly understand…

Living and visiting third world countries on a regular basis throughout most of my life, I am more aware than most of cultural diversity and the impact it has within a single culture, much less a wider application. In Haiti, I was reminded that because I live within my own paradigms, I can never fully understand the plight of those outside of them. Despite seeing poverty in its most extreme, I have never been that poor….despite witnessing oppression at its worst, I have never really been oppressed…No matter how much, as global leaders we would like to think we understand, chances are we are just not equipped to comprehend the complexity and diversity that resides within our global organizations.  The myriad of cultural challenges our diverse global communities present, only serves to remind us that while we can certainly learn and understand general orientations and respect and value others worldviews, we can not fully understand individual people by observing from a physical or psychological level.  The diversity and complexity of those individuals is shaped not only by their culture, but by their life experiences and  the dozens of values, thousands of attitudes and tens of thousands of beliefs that continually evolve throughout a lifetime. As global leaders, where we can be effective is through active listening, understanding that there is more than one “best way”,  and having the capacity to facilitate the blending of the best of all cultural elements to make the whole more than the sum of the parts.

2.      One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to understand what’s important.

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Leadership Lessons From Haiti

September 8, 2010 — 8 Comments

A few weeks ago my husband and I led a missions team to Haiti. As I was observing (and serving) in the poorest country in the western hemisphere,  I began to think about how there are some leadership lessons inherent in the environment in Haiti that most of us could stand to think about more often. You may think to yourself, “what can I learn from a country that has 90% unemployment and a 70% illiteracy rate?” These statistics are correct… and there are some important reminders (lessons) that impact how we interact with people as leaders and how far people are willing to go to serve you. Here are just a few of the things that come to mind:

  1. Understand, you can’t possibly understand…

Living and visiting third world countries on a regular basis throughout most of my life, I am more aware than most of cultural diversity and the impact it has within a single culture, much less a wider application. In Haiti, I was reminded that because I live within my own paradigms, I can never fully understand the plight of those outside of them. Despite seeing poverty in its most extreme, I have never been that poor….despite witnessing oppression at its worst, I have never really been oppressed…No matter how much, as global leaders we would like to think we understand, chances are we are just not equipped to comprehend the complexity and diversity that resides within our global organizations.  The myriad of cultural challenges our diverse global communities present, only serves to remind us that while we can certainly learn and understand general orientations and respect and value others worldviews, we can not fully understand individual people by observing from a physical or psychological level.  The diversity and complexity of those individuals is shaped not only by their culture, but by their life experiences and  the dozens of values, thousands of attitudes and tens of thousands of beliefs that continually evolve throughout a lifetime. As global leaders, where we can be effective is through active listening, understanding that there is more than one “best way”,  and having the capacity to facilitate the blending of the best of all cultural elements to make the whole more than the sum of the parts.

Continue Reading…