Cultural Competence Required

Intercultural CompetenceBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Openness to learning about other cultures has become a necessary component of leadership.  One way to help people respect cultural differences is to build what UNESCO calls “intercultural competence.” To accomplish this, we need an open mind, and a willingness to learn from others who do not think or live as we do.

“Intercultural competences are abilities to adeptly navigate complex environments marked by a growing diversity of peoples, cultures and lifestyles.”

Intercultural Competences: Conceptual and Operational Framework, UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,

If we’re lucky, we’ll have the opportunity to work with people who have very different backgrounds and mindsets from our own. If they’re lucky, we’ll be open-minded and want to learn more about their culture and beliefs to understand them. Ghassan Salame′, Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs, said in his Speech to the United Nations General Assembly that “mistrust, which anthropologists have found in most cultural traditions of the past, is not necessarily higher today; it only has many more opportunities to express itself in these times of multiform interaction.”

When we are not open to learning about other cultures, of course those cultures will seem “wrong” to us.  Stephanie Quapp and Giovanna Cantatore describe such a situation well when they say “Misunderstandings arise when I use my meanings to make sense of your reality.”

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”                                                  Carl Jung

Globally-aware leaders intentionally develop cultural competence. Being open to learning from others builds a bridge that helps us overcome any differences. Judging them simply closes the door.

Resources for Learning:

Intercultural Competences: Conceptual and Operational Framework, UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,

What is Cultural Awareness? Stephanie Quapp and Giovanna Cantatore


For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

4 Responses to Cultural Competence Required

  1. Pingback: Cultural Competence Required | GLOBAL GLEANINGS...

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Gabriel. Read more about authentic leadership in this recent post:


  3. Gabriel Sodje says:

    Ethical values are the bedrock of authenticity. Authentic leaders must make ethical values their best companion.


  4. Pingback: Cultural Competence Required | Organisation Dev...

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