Characteristics of Culturally Agile Leaders

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Practical Application: Characteristics of Culturally Agile Leaders

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 The Agile Leader
  • 0:47 The Culturally Agile Leader
  • 4:17 Building Cultural Agility
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Matthiesen-Jones

Mary has worked around the world for over 30 years in international business, advertising, and market research. She has a Master's degree in International Management and has taught University undergraduate and graduate level courses .

In today's workplace, agility is a characteristic of the most effective leaders. Dealing with cultural differences is part of the modern leadership challenge. Learn about what makes a leader not just agile, but culturally agile in this lesson.

The Agile Leader

Say you own a business and want to take it internationally. Have you thought about how that business will do in a completely different culture?

Agility, in its most basic definition, is the ability to be responsive in unpredictable circumstances. An agile leader is someone who possesses certain specific characteristics that allow him or her to work effectively in today's fast-paced business environment. Agile leaders:

  • See change as an opportunity and as something positive to be embraced, not avoided
  • Are open to new ideas, whatever the sources
  • Think creatively and look for new, innovative approaches to problem-solving
  • Value collaboration and foster teamwork
  • Prize emotional intelligence as a pathway to outside-the-box thinking

The Culturally Agile Leader

Cultural agility adds another dimension to effective leadership in the increasingly diverse world of business. A culturally agile leader is flexible and willing to adapt to new cultures and perspectives. They have the core characteristics of an agile leader, and:

  • Recognize that cultural differences do make a difference in how people think and interact
  • Are self-aware with respect to how their own culture influences their approach to the world and those around them
  • Are curious about other cultures and welcome new experiences in a noncritical way
  • Focus on what's shared across cultures as well as the differences

Cultural agility can mean the difference between success and failure for a business. Have you ever thought about how different cultures approach food and what this means for companies when they move around the world? The culturally agile leader knows that this means more than just being aware of the dos and don'ts of food. It also means understanding culturally-grounded traditions and preferences.

Let's take a look at two examples: McDonald's in Hong Kong and Disneyland in Europe.

McDonald's in Hong Kong

When Daniel Ng opened a McDonald's restaurant in Hong Kong, he knew there would need to be some differences. For example, the American McDonald's approach of serving only traditional breakfast items in the morning and not offering hamburgers until mid-day was inconsistent with local food preferences.

One of the most popular local breakfast dishes consumed by the Chinese was steamed buns stuffed with meat and other fillings. Traditional American breakfast fare, like eggs, sausage, bacon, and pancakes, were oddities to local patrons.

The culturally agile leader of McDonald's in Hong Kong realized that the way to encourage people to eat breakfast at McDonald's was to serve hamburgers throughout the day and not waiting until lunchtime. They would be the McDonald's version of those Chinese meat buns.

Ng's culturally adept reaction helped contribute to the company's almost instant success in Hong Kong. So, if you want a Big Mac for breakfast, Hong Kong is the place to go!

Disneyland in Europe

Now, say the name 'Disneyland' and it instantly conjures up images of fun-filled family vacations; but when Disney decided to enter the European market with the opening of Euro Disney just outside of Paris, the corporate leadership was strong, but not culturally agile.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account