The world needs cross-cultural leaders. In order to lead in the 21st century leaders need to become culturally agile, meaning “the mega-competency that enables professionals to perform successfully in cross-cultural situations” (Caligiuri, 2012, p.4). Therefore, cultural agility is the flexibility of a cross-cultural leader to adjust to any environment and still be effective. Cross-cultural leaders have the ability to learn and be conscientious of their surroundings, make adjustments, and overcome any cultural obstacles that they face (Caligiuri, 2012).
To be culturally agile, leaders have to be willing to do away with some of their own beliefs, behaviors, and traditions in order to cultivate trust among others (Caligiuri, 2012). A wise cross-cultural leader will humble him or herself and be vulnerable in the presence of others, just to learn from them and build camaraderie that is needed for a competitive advantage. Jesus was a culturally agile strategic leader. The Bible says that He came to save the world (John 3:16); in other words, if He only came to save (for example) the Jews, the text would have said; “for God so loved the Jews;” but, that is not the case. Jesus crossed many cultural borders that your typical rabbi would not have done in His era, like minister to Samaritans (John 4:4-52) even though Jews had no dealings with the so-called half breads (New Bible Commentary, 2010).
Jesus was a master at breaking religious ideologies and traditional paradigms even in His own culture. An example of this was when He was in Martha and Mary’s house, teaching Mary who was sitting at His feet (Luke 10:38-42). No Jewish rabbi of the time would have done such a thing since women were not considered equal to men. But Jesus’ vision for His mission and organization was greater than that. He knew that if He wanted to reach the world and influence it for the better, it could not be done by “business as usual.” Jesus was a cross-cultural leader according to Lingenfelter (2008) who states: “leading cross-culturally is inspiring people who come from two or more cultural traditions to participate with you in building a community of trust, and then to follow you and be empowered by you to achieve a compelling vision of faith.” Jesus’ vision was global not local, something we can all learn from the master teacher: “and he said to them, “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, NRSV). This is what makes Jesus a culturally agile leader. Are you one?
Caligiuri, P. (2012). Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Carson, D.A., France, R.T., Motyer, J.A., & Wenham, G.J, Ed. (2010). New Bible Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, USA.
Lingenfelter, S. G. (2008). Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Peter Rios is a consultant to businesses, organizations, and religious institutions. His company, R.I.O.S.-Robust Innovative Organizational Solutions, LLC, focuses on leadership development, organizational diversity and renewal. Rios’ passion is to add value to people and see their organizations transformed. Equipping people with the tools for success and building relationships through team work brings him great fulfillment.
His extensive experience and doctoral education in strategic leadership has made him a sought out speaker, facilitator and coach. Rios has traveled to speak and serve in China, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Canada, and throughout the U.S. In the United States Marines Corps he gained global leadership exposure in multicultural settings while stationed in Okinawa Japan and South Korea. Ríos is an adjunct professor in Indiana at Wesleyan University.
Mr. Rios is married to his lovely wife Dr. Ruth Gonzalez-Rios and resides in Rochester, NY. For consultancy email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.