Coursera – International Leadership and Organizational Behavior

FranzVery insightful class with an in-depth analysis of international aspect of leadership.  Despite my work for international companies and bi-lingual – bi-cultural background, the issues raised by the class were eye-opening.  Some aspects of my native culture were also “new” – or rather not consciously examined before.  Highly recommend the class! Notes from the course:

  • International Organizational Behavior allows leaders to identify situations, where cultural differences need to be considered and adjust their own behavior when necessary.  This understanding should help navigate increasingly international business landscape.
  • Culture has been called “Software of the Mind” by Geert Hofstede.  Similar to software, it can be “updated” or it can change over time
  • Culture shapes cognitionculture
    •  individuals with a Chinese cultural mindset vs. a US American cultural mindset will interpret different the image of single fish swimming infront of a group of fish (US American cultural mindset: a fish leading the rest, Chinese cultural mindset: fish being chased by the rest)
  • Culture also shapes emotions

Two approaches to understanding culture

  • Dissecting culture to avoid superficial perception
  • Categorizing cultures to find key differences and make cultures comparable

Dissecting culture: the Onion model. onion Categorizing culture – High/Low context Model

  • High context culture: the meaning of the communication is derived from the context of the situation and relationship (Saudi Arabia, Japan, Italy, England)
  • Low context culture: the meaning of the communication is explicitly communicated (Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, USA)

Categorizing culture – Hofstede’s Dimentions culture-comparison (Excellent site with the explanation of the dimensions and an interactive tool for comparison – The Hofstede Center Cultural dimensions models can lead to “sophisticated stereotypes” issue, ignore internal contradiction within the culture and do not take into consideration cultural shifts. EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is not enough; CQ (Cultural Intelligence) is needed Communication barriers in intercultural communications:

  • Language barrier
  • Semantic barrier (understanding of the meaning, which can be different).  More difficult to detect, as there is an impression that the message is understood.

Low context and high context cultures

  • LC person communicating with a HC person: The LC person comes across as rude and too direct.
  • HC person communicating with a LC person: The LC person may miss a lot of the clues from the situation, she may not even know what to pay attention to.
  • If there is someone from HC cultures in the team, you want to use more face-to-face interaction.

You need people with very different, conflicting perspectives to make sense of a situation with very different, conflicting perspectives. This is where an intercultural team with very different cultural backgrounds come in handy.

  • Individualist Countries: The focus of people is to do what needs to be done to succeed (the “technically best solution”).
  • Collectivist Countries: The main focus here is to maintain group harmony and avoid conflict (the “socially best solution”)


None of the existing theories of motivation consistently provide applicable and reliably effective answers for how to motivate people at work, but they do provide an excellent set of guiding questions 🙂

Complexity of motivation is complicated by multicultural environment.

Managing Multicultural Teams



As usually, there are a couple of books to enjoy… I will get to them 🙂


Global Leadership Practices: A Cross-Cultural Management Perspective .

. brain-and-culture

Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change

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