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21 Residents, 19 Countries, 1 Goal:
Intercultural Leadership

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A new 2012 initiative launched at International House is providing an inaugural cohort of twenty-one residents with intensive training in different cultural norms and values. With the benefit of cultural self-assessment, mentoring, and customized development opportunities, participants are provided the means to develop greater cross-cultural skills in concert with stronger leadership qualities. "In a globalized world, the ability to work across cultural differences is a core capacity for anyone who aspires to lead. Whether grassroots, corporate, or in the global socio-political or economic domain, leaders must be able to bridge cultural divides to communicate effectively." said I-House Executive Director Ambassador Martin Brennan, who is among four I-House trainers guiding the program. Breidi Truscott, IH Program Director Liliane Koziol, and Executive Director Emeritus Joe Lurie are also conducting training sessions and, with members of the I-House Board, serving as mentors. Student participants comprise graduates, undergraduates, visiting scholars and post-docs, both from the US and overseas, with interests ranging across international business, global health, education, diplomacy and nonprofit leadership.

The program kicked off with an overnight off-site retreat at Camp Loma Mar, an hour's drive from I-House on the California coast, focused on cultural self-awareness, particularly as it relates to understanding how the textures and layers of a person's cultural identity affect or predict behavior.

Using an Intercultural Effectiveness Scale Assessment to benchmark a cultural and leadership attributes, each participant crafted a personal development plan for the spring semester, including meetings with mentors and participating in select intercultural programs, lectures and films at I-House. As the nature of the program is intercultural by design, the eclectic composition of the group increases program quality, with everyone encouraged to bring their unique perspective to the training exercises. Participants from cultures that have been estranged or are relatively unfamiliar, historically speaking, were able to formulate questions and insights about building a global mind set.

Post-retreat, one of the central issues of the program is what makes intercultural leadership different from more traditional and generalized concepts of leadership. In response, monthly workshops throughout the spring semester covered a range of topics on including how a person's value system impacts their leadership style and sense of effectiveness in handling conflict negotiation. Using real world examples from international business and the sphere of global non-profit programming, participants were challenged to retain their core values and preserve a harmonious working relationship while collaborating with team members with different, even incongruent, value systems. A closing celebration in April will confer participants completing the program with a Certificate in Intercultural Leadership.

In Their Own Words...Initiative on Intercultural Leadership (IIL)

Name: Susann Landefeld
Country: Germany
Field of study: BA, International Relations
Background: I am on exchange from the University of St Andrews. Born in Germany, I have also lived in the Czech Republic, Australia, the United States and Scotland. I am glad to be pursuing a joint degree that perfectly complements my international interests and to be studying at Cal and living at I-House.
About I-House & the IIL: I-House is a place where people come together from all over the world with curiosity for different cultures. The IIL takes this I-House experience even further by teaching valuable knowledge and skills to understand and comfortably interact in such a diverse community. In our globalized world, we are increasingly exposed to foreign cultures and culturally-determined misunderstandings seem inevitable. Leaders who can realize the personal and professional benefits of what might otherwise be a potential source of conflict are more important than ever before. I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this inaugural pilot program. I hope to apply these skills in the international business arena after graduation next year.

Name: Andrew Park
Country: USA
Field of study: BA, Public Health
Background: I was born in Los Angeles but moved frequently as a child, living in Argentina, Germany, Israel, Korea and the US. Because I never stayed long enough to feel a citizen of one nation, I learned to find connections with every human being, not just those of a certain background.
About I-House & the IIL: I have met some of my closest friends within the walls of I-House, and I've been excited to participate in IIL. I appreciate how the program presents research around cross-cultural navigation and provides a framework to better understand some of my experiences. There are fantastic people in this program and I immensely value the chemistry, company and friendship that has developed in such a diverse group. I hope to bring this training into my future medical school studies and long term work ambitions, which include serving third world countries, likely in a Spanish or Portuguese speaking country.

An Exercise in Hierarchy

Susann "Susi" Landefeld (left) Andrew Park (far right)

IH residents and leadership trainees Susann "Susi" Landefeld (left) and Andrew Park (far right) are shown at right during a "cultural hierarchy" exercise. Cards on foreheads reflect "high" or "low" status. Not knowing one's own status, interaction among the group creates interesting opportunities for self-reflection and insights into greater cross-cultural communication between people from more egalitarian traditions versus those raised in a more hierarchical society.