Effective international project leaders strike a careful balance
between the various values and preferences of each of the cultures involved. They do this by demonstrating six key
leadership behaviors, each of which is discussed below.
#1 Effective international project
leaders understand their
own and others’ cultural values
Cultural values determine the way people interact with
others and can become huge obstacles if not managed right. For example, project team members in many countries
may not speak up when they identify an issue that could jeopardize their project’s success, for fear of irritating
the leader, losing face, or disturbing the team’s harmony. Competent international project leadership requires
an understanding of one’s own beliefs and assumptions and an ability to recognize other team members’ cultural
values and behaviors.
#2 Effective international project
leaders understand the
role of time
American teams often move quickly through project
planning, starting to execute as soon as possible. In contrast, people in many other cultures may spend much more
time putting the project plan together, analyzing and understanding the risks involved, and aligning the tasks of all
team members. These projects often progress very smoothly throughout the subsequent execution phases, compensating
for the slow start. Successful international project leaders understand and leverage these differing points of view
on the effective use of time.
#3 Effective international project
and know how to get the right information
It is hard to underestimate the difficulty in communicating
across language and cultural barriers. Competent project leaders use multiple channels to convey key information
and ensure that all team members share a common understanding of the project’s requirements. They also
understand that getting accurate and complete information from team members requires carefully asking open-ended
questions rather than yes/no-type ones.
#4 Effective international project
leaders build relationships
In most cultures around the world, establishing
relationships requires getting to know one another and developing a mutual trust. This is often a
precondition for people to effectively work together. Culture-savvy project leaders spend significant time
building relationships with and between project team members, supporters, sponsors, and other stakeholders.
#5 Effective international project
leaders support local
ownership and pride
In any international product co-development setting
there will be an expectation for each side to prove itself. Foreign teams may be nervous or even feel threatened.
This, combined with the intense national pride found in many countries, results in team members who look for frequent and
clear confirmation that their contributions are recognized and valued. Competent international project leaders realize
the value of making each local team feel important, assigning local ownership of sub-projects and tasks whenever feasible.
#6 Effective international project
leaders motivate their
Strong team motivation is a cornerstone of successful
project leadership. However, ways to motivate project teams may vary greatly across cultures.
Effective international project leaders carefully select the best methods that stimulate and nurture the motivation levels
of their teams and individual team members.