Strategic Leadership

Do you ever wonder what makes a great leader? Why some organizations thrive while others fail? Are you interested in becoming a better all-around leader? Do you desire to learn more about leadership, but presently do not have the time to go to school or the resources? No worries! CNY Latino and Peter Rios of R.I.O.S. (Robust Innovative Organizational Solutions) have partnered to bring you the finest up-to-date leadership strategies to equip you to become fully competent in your respective areas of business.

As long as you have the desire to lead, reading these articles from the Strategic Leadership Column will help you to fulfill your calling. Stay tuned every month for this prestigious corner of leadership development brought to you exclusively by CNY Latino and Peter Rios.

Cross-Cultural Leadership

Globalization is now as common as sliced bread. Today, especially within the U.S., you can live among many different nationalities and have more languages spoken on your street than the United Nations. So what are we to do with such a globalized world? According to Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh (2012), we have no other choice but to “be global.” This means learning about other cultures while trying to abstain from being ethnocentric. This is what Paula Caligiuri (2012) calls “cultural agility.” Cultural agility is the ability to function in cross-cultural contexts with effectiveness, and the skill to do so as a gentle leader. Exactly the opposite of what goes on in many businesses and organizations today. The question is, how do we become great cross-cultural leaders?

Cross-Cultural Thinking

Everyone in business desires to have a competitive advantage. Yet today, many CEO’s are unskilled when it comes to understanding or being effective outside their culture. Why is that? Most likely it’s the way they were brought up by their family and/or immediate surroundings. This would have been acceptable 25-30 years ago when the internet was just getting started, but now business leaders need cultural agility to keep up with the times.

Cross-cultural leadership starts with the CEO or executive leader acknowledging that she or he needs this skill in order to cross boarders and limitations in their industry. Once this is done, the leader will actually have to learn how to become effective in intercultural dealings. Everyone who is cross-culturally proficient learned it, and can say that it was very hard work. This is where most of us fall off. These days, no one has the time or the desire to learn anything new, especially if it costs us hard work!

Organizational leaders will have to learn the culture that they serve in, and be willing to learn how to become sensitive to their surroundings wherever their trade sends them. Business today is transnational; therefore leaders need to acquire the ability to view the world through the lenses of others (Cabrera and Unruh, 2012). This is the first step to having a global mindset. Whether you are a business, government, or social leader, this skill is vital to your success. If we cannot dare to view things in another way, we limit our leadership, growth, and competitive advantage. As a result, continuous cultural learning for every business leader should be a priority.

Build a Team of Cross-Cultural Leaders

After we have learned that we do not know it all, we then should move into the next phase of building cross-cultural competence, which is adding value to our business by surrounding ourselves with other leaders who are capable of doing what we cannot. Research shows that “the use of teams has led to greater productivity, a more effective use of resources, better decisions and problem solving, better-quality products and services, and greater innovation and creativity” (Northouse, 2013, p. 288). Now, add the component of everyone in your team being skilled and talented in a different culture than the other; this makes for a great cross-cultural dream-team.

In the history of humankind, no great leader ever did anything alone. Again, whether in business, government, or social leadership, everyone needs a team. These days, that team better be a cross-cultural team, if you want to expand your horizons! People have become interconnected through the internet and telecommunications. No one wants their businesses to stay behind or worse yet, extinct.!

Hence, cross-cultural leadership is crucial to the success of all organizations today. Have I repeated myself enough yet? Maybe we need one more tip? Here it is. Besides learning to be globally minded and building a cross-cultural team, which are essentials for global competitive advantage, cross-cultural leaders will need humility; humility to understand that it takes time to learn another culture, sector, or the protocol of others unlike ourselves. This will not be an overnight event, but a lifelong process (Hofstede, Hofstede, &Minkov, 2010). So let’s get out of our mind that we will be cross-cultural leaders overnight. Just as we learned to be stubborn, stuck in modes of traditional thinking and doing, it will also take time to evolve into cross-cultural leaders.

Final Thoughts

It takes a humble leader to admit that they need assistance in this area of cultural agility, learning to be globally minded, and building cross-cultural teams. But, if you’re up for the challenge, your net worth is almost guaranteed to rise. People will flock to work for you, or be on your team because they know that they are appreciated, that you have their best interests in mind, and their diversity is valued. Cross-cultural leadership in today’s business world is what makes an organization go from average to extraordinary.


  • Cabrera, A., Unruh, G. (2012) Being Global: How to Think, Act, and Lead in a Transformed World. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Caligiuri, P. (2012). Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.J., Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Third Edition. McGraw Hall.
  • Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.


Peter Rios is a consultant to businesses, organizations, and religious institutions. His firm R.I.O.S.-Robust Innovative Organizational Solutions focuses on strategic leadership, conflict resolution, organizational renewal and innovation.

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 current 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. Rios is an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University. He is married to his lovely wife Dr. Ruth Gonzalez-Rios and resides in Rochester, NY. For consultancy, email at

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