A Window to the Middle East

Lead.

Julianne Cenac from the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship (GLE) provides the following information:

Lessons that develop and refine competencies for effective global business practice include a range of competencies and behaviors also supported in the literature (de Vries, Vrignaud, & Florent-Treacy, 2004; House, Javidan, Hanges & Dorfman, 2002; Kayworth & Leidner, 2002; Javidan, Steers & Hitt, 2007; Marquardt & Berger, 2000; McCall & Hollenbeck, 2002) such as:

  1. open mindedness
  2. flexibility
  3. cultural sensitivity
  4. resourcefulness
  5. ability to manage complexity
  6. resiliency
  7. stability
  8. integrity
The following elaborates on a few of these competencies.

Open Mindedness. While it may seem counter intuitive for a person who lives by the enduring principles of scripture to remain open minded, it may well be the greatest quality of a Christian in global practice. I say this because to be open-minded is to remain teachable and humble, to examine another culture or perspective with intent to understand. As Christians, we often close our minds to other views and perspectives, particularly those based on other religions. By this, we risk becoming arrogant and pious by creating these tacit domains of us and them, completely negating the more desirable quality of the Christian life—to love.

Flexibility. Another important global competency is flexibility. In global practice, flexibility enables individuals to adjust their behaviors, preferences and attitudes to the cultural norms of the host country. In Qatar the work week begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday. A typical workday is about seven hours starting around 7 a.m. and ending around 2 p.m. Part of this is cultural. In summer, the sun rises around 4:30 a.m. and is at its fullest emitting 130-degree ground temperatures by midday. Therefore, most organizations, particularly industrial organizations, end or break the work day for the afternoon. To adjust while working there, I took my Sabbath on Saturday (with Mark 2:27-28 in mind) and had time for devotion and prayer, as there were only a few Christian churches in the country. My team also had to be flexible with our eating times as it was normal to take lunch at 2 p.m. not noon, making for a long work day relative to our American custom. During Ramadan, we didn’t eat at all at the office out of respect for our Muslim colleagues, who were fasting during the day.

Integrity. Perhaps one of the greatest professional lessons I learned while working in Qatar, was that understanding the culture, language and customs were all important to being effective in global practice. However, demonstrating integrity was paramount. Integrity is a universal quality of being true and consistent in one’s actions and behavior. Toward the end of my time there when speaking with our client, I learned that this quality of integrity, was the one factor they most appreciated about our team.

In Qatar, a 90 percent expatriate workforce meant encountering foreign workers from nearly every continent.  Some weekends or evenings we would gather and socialize with other expats. Being away from home, the natural tendency was to let your guard down and talk, often disparagingly, about the cultural differences of the local work environment or customs. It was a discouraging reality. But, we did not engage in it. It mattered that reports never came back to our client host that we acted one way in their presence and another way with others. It mattered that we showed respect and sincere friendship with our client colleagues and spoke as well of them outside their presence as we did in front of them.

In summary, while working in Qatar and other parts of the Middle East, I sought to understand, to learn and to relate—visiting a mosque, getting to know local families and reading the Qur’an.  None of these acts took away from who I was as a devoted Christian. But, they did open my eyes to see the humanity of people and to be more effective in my work as a global leader. Consider how Peter responded to the notion of visiting Cornelius, a gentile and captain in the Roman army (Acts 10:1-47, 11:1-18). Despite that he was led by the Holy Spirit to go to Cornelius’ home or that Cornelius was a believer, Peter’s mind was closed and his initial actions of resistance were girded by his own religious view of what was most important in keeping the law versus obeying God. From this example, my prayer is that we might all recognize that our own cultural practices are of no greater significance in God’s eyes than those of another. Rather, we should know that any measure of our greatness is contingent on our posture of service; and that our greatest responsibility—perhaps our greatest asset as Christians in global practice—is to love.


References

de Vries, M., Vrignaud, P., & Florent-Treacy, E. (2004). The global leadership life inventory: Development and psychometric properties of a 360-degree feedback instrument. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 15(3), 475-492.

House, R., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., & Dorfman, P. (2002). Understanding cultures and implicit leadership theories across the globe: An introduction to project GLOBE. Journal of World Business, 37(1), 3-10.

Javidan, M., Steers, R. M., & Hitt, M. A. (2007). The Global Mindset.  JAI Press.

Kayworth, T. R., & Leidner, D. E. (2002). Leadership effectiveness in global virtual teams.

Marquardt, M. & Berger, N. (2000). Global Leaders for the 21st Century. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

McCall, M. W. & Hollenbeck, G. P. (2002). Developing Global Executives. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.