Defining Cross-Cultural Literacy Landscapes - con't

A truly global organization functions in an open atmosphere that fosters creativity, experimentation and pragmatic trust through disclosure to grow the business multi-nationally as well as multi-locally. As shown above by Jennings and Haughton, the speed by which a company moves is paramount. The technology flow and increasing amount of information that must be disseminated creates complex business equations that have to be solved in order to prosper. As a result, the aspect of both social and cultural literacy weighs heavily in most decisions leaders make by providing a sense of history necessary to see where the organization has come from and provide the ability to recognize repetitive circumstances within the organization. The future is indeed an unknown. However, effective leadership, by recognizing cultural and social norms, can provide a valid organizational road map to follow, but only by recognizing the input of the organization as a whole. Is it more important for leadership to set literacy into motion, or can it begin at the lower levels of the organization? Rosen provides a plethora of examples of top leadership interviews and survey questions that support the top-down theory. Not one case is sighted where organizational change is driven from within the lower echelons of the organization suggesting the leadership for change is imperative for forward progress. This is not to argue that workers at lower levels are unimportant to the process of growth. On the contrary, leadership must provide “the best of impatience with a constructive push for excellence [that] creates just enough anxiety to move people forward not paralyze them.” Rosen uses the example of a rubber band stating that “if you pull it too hard, it breaks. If you don’t pull it hard enough, you don’t maximize the potential of the band.”12 This sets the stage for connective teaching because great leaders are indeed both great students as well as great teachers.

“Work must be a place of insatiable curiosity, a breeding ground for the lifelong development of all employees. Learning emerges from the creative juxtaposition of people, ideas, and technology, not from isolated endeavors of individuals. Connective teaching makes this happen. [It] engages all the skills of personal and social literacy.”13

By recognizing these top skills, both leadership and employees can identify the most significant aspect of working with and influencing others.

Inspiration – Employees need a sense of significance that inspiring leaders bring with them to an organization. The inspiration is supplanted with motivation for internal as well as external success.

Communication – Knowing the intuitive elements of communication, not only the power of the words that are being used, but also the verbal and non-verbal signals within a conversation or negotiation are critical. When used properly, communication provides a strategic framework and context for understanding.

Listening – Hearing both the spoken and unspoken is critical to an organizations success. It means listening with not only the ears, but also with the head and the heart. It means recognizing moods as well as verbal and non-verbal communication

Common Goals and Values – The understanding of common objectives which coordinate with individual and organization value systems are critical to success. Without commonality of approach and understanding, the organizations ability to look forward is stunted.

Teaching and Coaching – Leaders must take a co-active approach to both teaching and learning.14 They must establish a routine that constantly supports team efforts along with the established objectives of the organization. It is a reaffirmation of both individual and collective purpose.

Replacing Conflict with Creative Action – It is functionally unwise to dwell on chaos whether internally produced or externally imposed. By addressing each challenge with creative solutions an organization will instill a sense of pride that fosters positive cultural effects.

Hiroshi Okuda, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan employ these tactics to support his management style. Heavily weighed in Japanese social and historical literacy, he has reenergized and challenged Toyota. Without all the component parts that are mentioned above, the continued success of both his leadership style and the organization’s global prowess would falter.

Are there other literacies that should be considered as part of the equation for success? Certainly moral and ethical literacy are important components of the literacy landscape. They have been sadly overlooked in recent years by primarily corporate leadership within the United States. Why has this not happened in other countries? It is from insatiable greed and lack of moral business training which litters the corporate world with numerous examples of poor judgment and ethical inconsistencies.15 In addition, the political landscape of the world is changing and effecting traditional business models requiring adaptation. War and unilateral action, although not unprecedented in world history but certainly unprecedented in American history, are requiring global businesses to adjust organizational policy and procedures. New issues are emerging as a result such as internal security, external sales efforts, communication style, and global positioning to name just a few.

John Sculley, ex-CEO of Apple Computer, was being interviewed by Warren Bennis concerning reoccurring themes in business. Sculley’s remarks to him are powerful, direct, and poignant.

“The old hierarchical model is no longer appropriate. The new model is global in scale, an interdependent network. So the new leader faces new tests, such as how does he lead people who don’t report to him – people in other companies, in Japan or Europe, even competitors. How do you lead in this idea-intensive, interdependent-network environment? It requires a wholly different set of skills, based on ideas, people skills, and values. Traditional leaders are having a hard time explaining what’s going on in the world, because they’re basing their explanations on their experience with the old paradigm.”16

If the people following the leadership are disinclined to follow, the issue becomes one of internal culture and the necessity of providing a reason and willingness to accept change. Without good reason or accepted willingness on the part of the employees, the leadership is required to stay with old paradigms to guide the organization or simply watch where the masses are leading and then follow them. By stating the above, the aspect of historical literacy could be treated negatively at which time the social literacy will become prevalent and fortuitous within the organization. The leadership will tend to “just go with it” to keep priorities focused and the business intact. Employee empowerment is no longer just forethought, but an internal culture that will produce results.

By working together, employees and management can structure the company to provide the business with a sense of purpose, a plan for the future, an integrated network for internal and external communications, resources that are the tools for growth, and the ability to establish a system of measurements that establish forward progress for the organization, the business, and the individuals participating. Rosen argues that knowledge, relationships, and culture are the primary factors that produce intangible “soft” assets which can be viewed in the following forms of capital:

• Financial capital: The money, investments, property, and equipment.
• Human capital: People and their abilities, knowledge, skill sets, experience.
• Customer capital: Customer relationship management.
• Organizational capital: Systems, structure, and processes.
• Reputation capital: Image and brand cache.17
Leaders around the globe continue to be focused on results and the measurement process which allow them to “build a culture of accountability and [an on-going] sustainable enterprise.”

The process of recognizing cross-cultural literacy landscapes is one that requires time and an in depth understanding of global leadership. Though all the literacies that Rosen discusses are important, the aspect of understanding both the social and historical literacy landscapes are paramount for organizational success. The challenge becomes one of recognizing the organizational self-sabotage of “ethnocentrism and blind thinking.”18 In the end, leading by example using a basic understanding of social and historical literacies allow businesses today to understand and thrive within cross-cultural literacy landscapes.


12Ibid, page 100.
13Ibid, page 101.
14Co-active Coaching, by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl, published by Davies-Black Publishing, an imprint o Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. Palo Alto, CA, 1998.15Coaching CEO's by Larry Bauman, provided as an article for, Feb. 2003.
16Managing the Dream; Reflections on Leadership and Change, by Warren Bennis, published by Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2000, page 27.
17Ibid, pages 340-341.
18Ibid, page 375.


Co-active Coaching, by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl, published by Davies-Black Publishing, an imprint o Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. Palo Alto, CA, 1998.

Cultivating Leadership in Schools: Connecting People, Purpose, and Practice, by G.Donaldson, Jr., published by Teachers College Press, New York, NY 2001.

Global Literacies: Lessons on Business Leadership and National Cultures, by Robert H. Rosen (Editor), Patricia Digh, Marshall Singer, published by Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, NY 10020 in 2000.

It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small, It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow, by Jason Jennings and Lawrence Haughton, published by HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2000.Managing the Dream; Reflections on Leadership and Change, by Warren Bennis, published by Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2000.

The Wounded Leader, by Richard Ackerman and Pat Maslin-Ostrowski, published by John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, CA 2002.

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