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Cross-cultural Leadership | An Indispensable Skillset For Sustainable Development

The purpose of this article is to develop further the case for cross-cultural leadership capabilities as a significant element for sustainable development (Henry & Wolfgramm, 2018; Miguel-Angel Galindo-Martín et al., 2019). The fact that all civilizations suffer similar societal challenges is crucial to this understanding. Still, depending on resources, traditions, beliefs, and basic living assumptions, how these difficulties are viewed and solved differs from culture to culture. Building new ideas through cultural formworks fosters ownership, adapts, and maintains revolutionary social change (Resolving international conflict: culture and corporate strategy (Eddleston, 2018a). Cross-cultural leadership is required to navigate and discover answers within cultural frameworks; in fact, leadership is thought to be a cultural process. (Vilas-BOAS et al., 2018; Snaebjornsson et al., 2015).  There are many reasons to believe that culture is a foundation for sustainable development. Hence the need for cross-cultural leadership competencies.  Leadership is the enabler to create the necessary platform for the co-creation of solutions to social problems confronting communities. Furthermore, Development projects usually rely on global exchanges of ideas and resources requiring leadership capabilities to navigate and work within these exchanges. This s involves a deep sense understanding of multiple stakeholders from diverse perspectives. As models of sustainable development thrive through a co-creation approach from multiple stakeholders eco-system, working across barriers demands embracing the differences and leveraging the various perspectives for the common good. (Pret & Carter, 2017a). This is especially true when international NGO’s seeks to alleviate poverty by introducing news solutions and resources in host communities.

Research question: Is Cross-cultural Leadership an Indispensable Skillset for Sustainable Development?     


Introduction

Culture constitutes the dynamics between humans, as exhibited in how they deal with issues confronting them. They are the shared beliefs, norms, and assumptions they have to solve the problem around them. (Asamoah & Emmanuel Yeboah-Assiamah, 2019; Bacq & Eddleston, 2018a; Canestrino et al., 2019; Rouse, 2000; Snaebjornsson et al., 2015)

Culture is a crucial construct in social entrepreneurship. Hence, leadership should be able to deal with the critical cultural ramifications of social innovation, diverse workgroups, and multi-level leadership activities.  Creativity and innovation are said to be integrated into cultural ecosystems (Jenner & Fleischman, 2017; Unceta et al., 2016). Leadership across culture is especially essential to social entrepreneurship as this provides an enabling environment for the cultural framework and synergies necessary to ignite innovation.   (Korzilius et al., 2017a; Piltch et al., 2020; Rouse, 2000)

The case of cross-cultural leadership can be based on the urgent need to find solutions to problems challenging us today. It demands dealing with complex issues, many of them paradoxical challenges. Often the choice is not either-or but both. That is the case with dealing with differences in cultures. Competing demands desire special skills in addition to the basic assumptions they need to be uncovered and addressed. Grand issues, such as climate change, poverty, and digitization, are becoming more prevalent in our world. Their intrinsic complexity produces paradoxical conflicts that leaders must navigate in order to handle these issues. These tensions, on the other hand, highlight to the limitations of traditional leadership approaches. While traditional leadership models encourage leaders to make difficult decisions in the face of competing demands and to stick to them, tackling big issues necessitates future leadership that engages opposing demands (Schad & Smith, 2019).

In terms of sustainable development, the study of cross-cultural leadership is crucial. Although social problems are common throughout cultures, remedies differ from country to country or community to community. Furthermore, while particular communities must design their solutions with active community engagement and long-term sustainability in mind, many ideas may be duplicated from one culture to the next (Henry & Wolfgramm, 2018; Pret & Carter, 2017; Snaebjornsson et al., 2015). As a result, cross-cultural leadership plays a crucial role.

 In the case of cross-border activities, leadership may have two roles. Firstly, providing cross-cultural leadership to personnel working across different cultures and barriers facilitates cultural knowledge and resource exchanges amidst political, economic, social, and technological barriers. Secondly, it requires leadership capability to work within systems and structures of host or local communities in providing an enabling environment for creativity and innovation requiring multiple perspectives and for adaptation to solutions that have worked in other cultures.  (Kovanen, 2021)

Sustainable Development

There is an intensified effort to solve the world’s persistent problems in a more sustainable way, known as sustainable development and sustainable economic development (Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development2015; Henry & Wolfgramm, 2018; Pret & Carter, 2017; Snaebjornsson et al., 2015). The general understanding of sustainable development provides lasting solutions for social issues such as healthcare, food supply, and education. Among the questions seeking answers for are how a community like Sierra Leone can maintain a consistent food supply that keeps them out of hunger for both the short and the long term. 

There are divergent views about the meaning of sustainable development and the key drivers and approaches in solving the world’s problems, such as access to health care, food security, education, and the environment. (Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development2015; Rahdari et al., 2016) There is an environmentalist phenomenon based on the premise that we cannot engage in activities that deplete resources to meet our current needs and desire at the expense of future generations. Sustainability can be assured if the community is part of the design and implementation of the projects. For sustainability to occur, it requires integrating the communities’ cultural values, beliefs, and perceptions. It is a way to build community engagement and adaptation to new solutions in a more sustainable way.  Although breakthrough ideas can be developed, these ideas should be done within the community’s felts, felt needs, and capabilities. Community involvement creates a more significant commitment to sustain the project beyond external engagement. Community involvement includes cultural understanding, reconciliation, and integration as a pathway to adapt to the new paradigms.  (Korzilius et al., 2017; Widjojo & Gunawan, 2020; Zayadin et al., 2020)

Culture

Culture is defined as the collective human mind programming that distinguishes members of one human group from those of another, according to Hofstede (Kristjansdottir et al., 2017). Culture is known to be the foundation for innovation, a critical success factor of social entrepreneurship. Building innovative ideas through cultural frameworks creates a sense of ownership with the beneficiaries. Adapting to transformative changes requires an alignment with community norms, values, and basic assumptions. (Bacq & Eddleston, 2018; Canestrino et al., 2019).

Working as a group using cultural context frameworks can interface social activities and promote economic activities. These dynamics have the power to provide an excellent financial platform, identifying with the cultural group and expansion of economic activities. The practical adaptation of cultural formworks would promote innovation. This will lead to different perspectives and move to a new level of thinking, resulting in breakthrough solutions that add to sustainable development. 

Fundamentally, the platform for resolving cultural issues is based on cultural assumptions. Basic assumptions refer to the day-to-day activities that go into living and adapting to environmental changes that represent traditions, belief systems, artifacts, diet, conventions, and problem-solving processes in a culture's search for solutions to a problem. (Culture is the way we go about things). Cultures are distinct in their own right. Groups, communities, and national cultures can all be capitalized on. Performance orientation, future orientation, assertiveness, power distance, compassionate direction, institutional collectiveness, in-group collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and gender egalitarianism are the nine dimensions examined by Project GLOBE (Creek, 2015).

There are underlying assumptions in cultural thinking and cultural spectrums. These are "universalism vs. particularism, Individualism vs. Collectivism; power distance; uncertainty avoidance; masculinity vs. femininity, long term vs. short term, masculinity vs. femininity, long term vs. short term, masculinity vs. femininity, long term vs. short term, masculinity vs. femininity, long term vs. short (Kristjansdottir et al., 2017). The way people see and perform leadership is influenced by their cultural configuration. The way humans respond with difficulties confronting them reveals a cultural dynamic in sustainable development. They're their common views, standards, and assumptions about how to solve the challenge they're dealing with. Culture is an important factor in long-term growth. As a result, leadership must address the key cultural repercussions of social innovation, as well as varied workgroups and levels of leadership (Henry & Wolfgramm, 2018; Korzilius et al., 2017b; VILAS-BOAS et al., 2018).

The Navajo Nation (Native American tribe) is an example of how cultures can sustain social problems. It demonstrated effective leadership in social issues using social entrepreneurship as a tool for sustainable development. The Navajo Nations can successfully build products using social entrepreneurship framework to integrate their cultural, economic development goals (Korzilius et al., 2017c; Minkov et al., 2019; Minkov & Kaasa, 2020). Cultural frameworks provide a more sustainable impact due to the collective process of adapting to innovation development changes. This is because creativity is generally seen as a process of cultural outgrowth and interaction where members experiment with social problems. 

When we use culture as a platform for sustainable development, it places a human face into the picture. This can then be translated into a high-level community involvement and inclusiveness framework for sustainable impact. The human elements have the enormous potential for community buy-in that creates a  sense of community involvement and ownership that will result in sustainability. The community now feels more accountable for what they have helped make. Since culture is how people solve problems in their immediate surroundings, it affects every facet of problem-solving approaches (Resolving international conflict: culture and business strategy.1996; VILAS-BOAS et al., 2018)

Leadership 

As stated earlier, sustainable development includes cross-cultural exchanges for innovative ideas with strong community engagement and involvement (Banerjee et al., 2020; Pret & Carter, 2017b). The role of cultural leadership is to actively engage the community in the creative process that solves community problems with lasting impact. These may be old problems using new solutions with existing cultural systems for adaptability. The process requires strong leadership capabilities (VILAS-BOAS et al., 2018). 

Leadership can enable sustainable development in several ways, diagnose problems within a cultural framework, develop innovative solutions within that context, build and strengthen cultural formworks for adaptation and sustainability.  Building upon cultural frameworks would provide a more sustainable impact due to the collective process of adapting to changes that innovation development would bring culture and sustainable development  (Coker et al., 2017; Henry & Wolfgramm, 2018; Piltch et al., 2020)

Problems with the lack of cross-cultural leadership capacity are evident in development projects. Despite the intensity of  International NGOs’ involvement,  there has been an ongoing debate relating to their level of impact on sustainable development (Ebrashi, 2013; Kirkpatrick, 2002; Miguel-Angel Galindo-Martín et al., 2019). While they have provided enormous assistance in alleviating many in developing countries, they have been criticized for orientation towards a process-based approach and a short-term fix that justifies the use of funds than instruments of sustainable development within sustainable cultural frameworks (Bonsu et al., 2020; O'Dwyer & Boomsma, 2015)  Hence their level of social impact has sometimes been questionable. 

 Other criticisms include limitations on the degree of influence to the recipient, especially when facing local cultural challenges.  The overhead cost for their projects is often very high, and projects tend to be complicated by the high level of bureaucracy from the donor country or institutions. It is also very typical to misuse funds by a corrupt system and individuals. For many developing countries, inefficiencies and waste are the norms. Also, very significantly, the beneficiaries do not fully benefit from the aid. Besides, there is also the suggestion that assistance from international NGOs has many disadvantages.  The disadvantages include creating a culture of dependence rather than support that allows the recipients to develop solutions based upon their local assets and cultural frameworks for sustainable impact (Bacq & Eddleston, 2018b; Bonsu et al., 2020; Henry & Wolfgramm, 2018; O'Dwyer & Boomsma, 2015). 

There seem to be generally strategies deployed by many international development organizations. The resource allocation theory is one of them. According to the resource allocation theory, we can deal with the issues of poverty with its effect on access to healthcare, education, food security, and the environment can be dealt with by reallocating resources. In other words, the solution to sustainable development among the poor community is to provide them with adequate resources. The argument is that it is the lack of resources that stifles sustainable development. The resource allocation theory argues that problems of sustainable development are caused by inequality in the distribution of resources or capital allocation. Mostly, communities or individuals are poor because of an imbalance of resources, and that reallocation of resources or access to more resources would alleviate poverty. It is assumed that the rich have greater access to resources. Hence, the underlying assumption is that we can alleviate poverty by reallocating resources or capital to benefit the poor by creating sustainable development. 

The resource model of development, which is typically used by the International NGO’s has vast setbacks (Maria Fernanda, 2021). Deploying too many resources will diminish returns, especially when there is no match with the unique cultural ramifications and the alignment with needs and capacity to adapt and sustain transformative change. This means more resources are; the impact becomes less than proportionate to the number of resources deployed. An increase in sustainable implications can only be attended to by complementing resources with innovation. This is a leadership prerogative that demands cross-cultural competencies. When leadership can navigate cultures, it can develop strong partnerships, bringing in new support, new ideas, visibility, integrity, strategy, and collective leadership that enhances sustainable development. Furthermore, the propensity for sustainability increases when we base our development efforts on cultural frameworks and high-scale community involvement (Bacq & Eddleston, 2018).  

Conclusion

The goal of this paper is to expand on the case for cross-cultural leadership as a critical component of long-term development (Méndez-Picazo et al., 2021). The argument is founded on the notion that solutions must have a cross-cultural basis in order to be sustainable. That is, individuals who will use the services should be involved in the solution's development. In other words, they should work together to develop solutions. Those who work with these groups are not required to be members of these communities. They could be professionals from local or international non-governmental organizations. They must comprehend that culture, as well as the underlying assumptions about why individuals behave in certain ways.

Cross-cultural leadership requires recognizing the individual’s cultural mindset and taking a collective approach of a new attitude leading to new but shared learning, which transcends individual perspectives leading to breakthrough ideas.  Organizations possess different realities and cultures. Failures in social entrepreneurship have been ascribed to an unwillingness to shift or adapt to a new paradigm of innovation in order to stay in the status quo. Working together in a group with cultural context frameworks has the potential to connect social and business operations (Mathews, 2017). As communities seek solutions to their challenges, leadership facilitates the process by fostering a climate that welcomes a variety of viewpoints. Martin, 2018; Havermans et al., 2015)

Finally, in order to find more long-term answers to social challenges, leadership must embrace a cultural and collaborative perspective. It would necessitate cultural healing as well as the crossing of cultural divides. Development solutions based on resource knowledge are more efficient and adaptive when cultural understanding is taken into account. Because the needs of sustainability and cultural differences may necessitate cross-cultural leadership, it is a critical component of long-term effect. This emphasizes the importance of leadership. Wilson et al., 2020; Alexy et al., 2018) There is an urgent need for credible solutions to the world's current socio-economic difficulties. Sustainable development tools are in high demand. Social entrepreneurship has long been recognized as a potential instrument. Due to the difficulty of generating sustainable solutions across cultural platforms, cross-cultural leadership is essential. As a result, it's reasonable to believe that cross-cultural leadership is a useful tool for long-term development.

Author: Alfred B. Sesay

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