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Those of you who read one of my last blog posts (Resilience in the face of a Violent World) will know why I believe this is such an important topic in this time of global challenge.  Leaders who have Cultural Intelligence are able to more easily adapt, learn, and bounce back from the issues that arise during the era we’ve entered; the Age of Interdependence. 

What is Cultural Intelligence?

          Earley and Ang (2003) define cultural intelligence as “a person’s capability to adapt effectively to new cultural contexts” (59). This involves the ability to “create new mental framework for understanding what is experienced and witnessed” (61). To be able to adapt to a new culture, the authors suggest that one must have an aptitude for direction (knowing what to do), adaptation (implementing), and criticism (critiquing one’s approach). Their model on cultural intelligence brings together a cognitive, motivational, and behavioral basis needed to display cultural intelligence. 

          Cognitive basis. The cognitive basis refer to “using knowledge of self, knowledge of social environment, and knowledge of information handling” to understand what to do in a given cultural context as well as how to do it” (68). According to the Earley and Ang (2003), we need culture to define who we are, and we define ourselves in reference to roles and expectations given to us by our culture. We may have multiple identities based on what we receive form our culture.  Therefore, highly adaptive individuals have a malleable self-concept and are able to adapt by incorporating new identities into their self-concept. Highly adaptive individuals are able to generate declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge about a culture using inductive/analogical reasoning, pattern recognition, external scanning, and self-awareness.

          Motivational basis. According to Earley and Ang (2003) “Cultural intelligence reflects self-concept and directs and motivates adaptation to new cultural surroundings” (73). One might be motivated to adapt to a culture via a strong sense of self-efficacy, persistence, desire for enhancement/acceptance by others, and value questioning and integration.  

          Behavioral basis. The behavior component involves the “ability to acquire new behaviors appropriate for a new culture” (Earley and Ang, 2003, 82). The culturally adaptive person is able to incorporate practices, rituals, and habits of another culture into their own behavioral repertoire. He or she uses “cues from others to infer accurately their states and views” and  “various behavioral cues provided by others to interpret their actions and underlying motives” (84).

Global leaders in particular need to be aware of their own cognitive, behavioral, and motivational bias. The whole world benefits.