Important Cross-Cultural Leadership Competencies

With an increasing amount of employees working in global and multinational environments, it is critical for organizations to understand and develop the competencies deemed most important for success. In a recent study, Gentry and Sparks (2011) investigated if four key leadership competencies are considered important for managerial success across all cultures, or just in some countries. These competencies are resourcefulness, change management, building and mending relationships, and balancing personal life and work. 


The researchers found that across 40 countries, approximately 1,550 companies, and 9,942 practicing managers, that more than two-third of those managers believe that resourcefulness, change management, and building and mending relationships are important for success. The competency of balancing personal life and work was not identified as important for success in organizations across cultures, with less than half of managers endorsing this competency. So while culture likely plays a role in managerial values and specific behaviors critical for success, these results suggest there is some consistency across cultures as to the critical leadership competencies for managerial success. 


This finding provides leverage for organizations hoping to develop a core set of leadership competencies across their global workforce. Resourcefulness, change management, and building and mending relationships are recognized as important for organizations around the world. Thus global organizations might focus developmental and training efforts on growing these identified leadership competencies, as managers across cultures believe them to be important for success. Managers might focus their attention on strategically utilizing resources, actively engaging others during times of change, and building strong relationships with direct reports.   


Gentry, W.A. & Sparks, T.E. (2011). A convergence/divergence perspective of leadership competencies managers believe are most important for success in organizations: A cross-cultural multilevel analysis of 40 countries. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26 (1).