The Spirit of Cultural Intelligence

davidlivermore | October 14th, 2011 8 Comments

I’m privileged to do work that I love. I write, teach, and speak about global leadership and cultural intelligence.

People often ask me, “So how did you end up in this kind of work?” I’m never quite sure how to answer that question. The easy response is the technical one. My professional and academic pursuits led me across international borders, which inevitably brought me face to face with cultural differences. But cultural intelligence was not simply a pursuit for me. It became a necessity in order to hold together the increasingly complex, diverse world I was encountering. For me, cultural intelligence was as much a discovery as a pursuit. And in some ways, CQ found me!

Cultural intelligence includes learning practical ways to effectively adapt to different cultures. But it has to go beyond that. It requires an internal transformation and the process is never really finished. Learning effective ways to motivate people from different cultures and understanding how to respectfully greet someone is good. But it’s not enough.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.

Can an egocentric person be culturally intelligent?

Is it truly “cultural intelligence” if you know how to change your leadership style or behavior but you’re doing so primarily for self-serving reasons: marketing a product, manipulating colleagues to see things your way, colonizing people with your perspective?

How do I legitimately respect others’ viewpoints while simultaneously remaining true to my own convictions and values?

My last few books have focused primarily upon the do’s and don’ts of leading across cultures and responding to global issues. It had to done if we were ever going to take our research from academic-ese into the real-world. But I’m finding my interests and my own experiences are pushing me back toward a desire to deal with the internal, transformative work that has to be done in order to live, work, and relate in our increasingly diverse world. We have to discover ways of living in the so-called flat world that are both authentically true to ourselves and genuinely curious and respectful.

To embrace a larger view of the world, we have to do an anthropological dig in our own souls. More to come on this…

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