Differences in Leadership Across Cultures

Kara Powell | Sep 19, 2011

We at FYI are big fans of Dave Livermore and his Cultural Intelligence work. I was especially struck by his blog last week about the differences in leaders across cultures.

Dave opens his blog by talking about how when asked to guess which individuals among a group of Czech leaders were the most influential, he picked two that would have been influential by typical American standards (e.g., they were charismatic). But actually, those charismatic leaders didn’t fit the Czech version of leadership. It was two other leaders who were the most effective-leaders who were more quiet and demure.

Dave makes some great points about leadership outside of the U.S. As I thought about our church’s youth ministry, and trends I see in youth ministries here in the U.S., it’s not unusual to have multiple cultures represented in the same grade of kids, or in the same small group. The obvious ramification is that we need to expand our vision for what makes a “good” small group leader. The different cultures and different personalities represented by the students in our group mean that we need a variety of types of leaders.

In my very early days of youth ministry, I discounted potential volunteers who I viewed as “too quiet” or “not enthusiastic enough”. Over the years, I’ve come to see how wrong that is. Often it’s those quiet volunteers who connect the BEST with students because they are quicker to listen than us more “verbal” folks.

I think immediately of Jan. Jan was one of the quietest college students I had ever met. Guess who loved her? Talkative junior high girls! They knew that Jan would be a great listener, and they were right.

Who in your community might be a great volunteer, if you had new eyes through which to see them?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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