Leadership Across Cultures

Bridging cultural differences demands exceptional emotional intelligence. A recent study conducted by Gurnek Bains (author of Cultural DNA) and his team at YSC, analyzed 1,500 senior executives around the globe, revealing their strengths and weaknesses in an array of skills under categories such as: Thinking, Leadership, Self-Awareness, Motivation, Interpersonal and Other. These more specific skills range from analytical thinking, team development, growth orientation, collaboration, among various others.

The graphs lists by region (United States, Middle East, India, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and China) the percentage of leaders who demonstrated strength in those skills. In analyzing the findings, Bains and his team also provided advice for both the leaders and for the people working with them.

Based on the data points and advice provided from the study, the following are important insights:

United States:

  • At 40% the United States leads in action-orientated thinking, however, leaders should acknowledge that others may not share this mindset
  • The U.S. is lowest in intellectual flexibility and creativity
  • People working with these leaders should be straightforward and open, get to the point, be brief and focus on tangibles


Latin America:

  • Nearly 70% of Latin American leaders demonstrate a strength in drive and ambition
  • However, only 3% of Latin American leaders are strong in strategic thinking
  • Collaboration is a strength among these leaders
  • Leaders in Latin America should adopt a less directive style and be ready to give and receive honest feedback
  • People working for these leaders should ensure structures and processes are tight and deliver tough feedback in a sensitive and positive manner



  • At nearly 50% percent, China leads in analytical thinking
  • While Latin American leaders are the most engaging and likeable, China follows behind at close to 35%
  • Almost 30% of leaders have a strength in team development, second behind Sub-Saharan African leaders
  • Leaders should stay positive when facing obstacles and balance analysis with conceptual exploration
  • People collaborating with these leaders should appreciate the importance of harmony and balance and use insiders to help build relationships


Understanding diverse forms of leadership impacts our day-to day business interactions on a global scale. Realizing the vast difference that range amongst regions gives us insight as to how we can improve and build global standards of leadership. Working in the United States and seeing diversity across various business industries, we find this study as a helpful reminder of each culture’s strengths and weaknesses in their leadership approach/process. It gives us food for thought to take into consideration when working with different cultures.

The complete study can be found in the May 2015 Harvard Business Review Study or at: https://hbr.org/2015/05/leadership-across-cultures


“Leadership Across Cultures.” Harvard Business Review. N.p., 01 May 2015. Web. 29 May 2015. <https://hbr.org/2015/05/leadership-across-cultures>.