Early next week, please watch for a special posting about upgrades and changes to my blog postings and web sites.
This week I started an eight-month course at Regent University (Virginia) with the lengthy title “Global Leadership for Mental Health Professionals.” In preparation I have been reading books with titles like Leading Across Cultures (James Plueddeman), Leading Cross-Culturally (Sherwood Lingenfelter), Leading Across Boundaries (Russell M. Linden) and Cross-Cultural Connections (Duane Elmer). I’ve been reflecting on my own experiences and assembling a team of experienced international experts to help us all think through issues relating to leading and partnering with mental health colleagues in other countries. Most students in the class are working on PhD or PsyD degrees. Most have had international experience. All are leaders and all know that connecting across borders is a lot tougher than it appears at first. The same is true if you never leave your neighborhood but lead, coach or otherwise connect across the borders that separate you from people with experiences, religious beliefs, ages, or ethnic backgrounds that differ from yours.
It doesn’t work to take your therapeutic approaches or seminar notes, get on a plane, and think that your home-tested methods, ideas or even your teaching or coaching styles will connect with people in Romania, Argentina or Malaysia. For one thing, everybody has perspectives, ways of doing things, standards of right and wrong, attitudes toward leadership, ideas about how to treat mental illness, and beliefs that each considers the best, right and sometimes the biblical way of doing things. When leaders and others disagree on these essentials conflict can follow and leadership is ineffective – even if all the people are Christian.
Recently in Eastern Europe I tried to coach a bright young man using ICF (International Coach Federation) guidelines. I struggled because he and I (both believers) had different views about vision, goals, partnerships and other basics. Differences like these can impact leading in youth groups, political legislatures, companies and counseling centers. Communication and leadership begin with efforts to understand one’s own assumptions or values and those of others.
Do you agree? Please click on comment to give us examples or your perspective.