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How to Lead a Culturally Diverse Organization From The Outside In

5 strategies to embed democratic leadership characteristics in your organization

Culturally diverse organizations can be the most empowering and liberating places to work. Cultural differences can create innovation. A culturally diverse company has a wider talent pool from which to draw, and employees have better opportunities to develop both personally and professionally. Remote employees increase local market insight and enable higher competitivity, leading to increased profitability.

The benefits of cultural diversity do not come without their challenges. Integration can be difficult, and communications may be misinterpreted. Understanding the complexities of culture – for example, its effects on professional etiquette – is no easy task, and can affect how people work within the same team.

In this article, you will learn how employing the characteristics of democratic leadership can aid when leading a culturally diverse organization.

What is democratic leadership?

Democratic leadership is a style that encourages employees to engage in decision-making. Their voice is heard and listened to, with the leader taking a role as chairman of the group with the casting vote.

This participative leadership style allows the leader to challenge employees in a constructive way. All are given the opportunity to take part, as ideas are discussed and debated. Akin to an outside consultant, the leader’s role becomes one of guiding.

Though retaining ultimate responsibility, the democratic leader encourages involvement of every player in the team in problem-solving. This engenders collaboration and the setting of collective goals, fosters an unbreakable team spirit, and provides opportunity to excel by learning from a mix of cultures.

Strategies to embed democratic leadership characteristics

While democratic leaders appear to lead from the outside in, especially in team meetings and group situations, they do not relinquish control. Achieving this is a learned skill, encompassing several tactics and strategies. Here are five strategies that will help the leader embed democratic leadership characteristics into his or her leadership toolbox.

Strategy #1: Ensure transparency

It is important to ensure that people are comfortable with expressing themselves and sharing their ideas. Create an environment that encourages people to be open and honest.

Strategy #2: Create a structure that enables focus

One of the disadvantages of democratic leadership is that it can take a long time to make decisions and act on them. People can easily become distracted and the conversation veer away from that intended. It is important that the leader directs the group, encouraging ideas that are on topic.

Strategy #3: Demonstrate preparedness to commit

Leaders can be inundated with ideas. This can be a good thing, though it has disadvantages. The ultimate responsibility lies with the leader to commit to a course of action. If this commitment is not there, then people can become disheartened and disengage quickly.

Strategy #4: Show respect to all

Not all ideas will be good ideas, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be celebrated. The fact that people put forward their views and opinions, and express their ideas, should be celebrated. Squash ideation at your peril: everyone has the potential to produce a game-changing idea. Don’t take that away.  This is a difficult line to walk, but mastering this step will make your team feel more valued, and they will respect you in turn.

Strategy #5: Explain your decisions

Always explain your decisions. This will help people to understand the vision and learn from their idea being rejected in favor of another. Communication is the key to engaging employees and leading effective change.

Is your organization meeting its full potential? Or is there evidence that cultural diversity is not working as it should? Contact Forward Focus today to discuss a Cultural Transformation Assessment or our Energy Leadership Program, both of which help to develop leaders who can foster cultural changes and develop high performing organizations. 

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