The Bookmarks interview with Ernest Gundling.
1. Why did you write these books?
Working GlobeSmart: We felt that there were many people talking about the dimensions of culture but insufficient practical application for everyday businesspeople. Our goal was to address useful skill areas such as Establishing Credibility, Giving and Receiving Feedback, Obtaining Information, and Evaluating People. We also wanted to go beyond intercultural communication on an interpersonal level to address other more team-oriented or organizational topics such as Selling, Negotiating, Innovation, and Managing Change.
What is Global Leadership? Many people were slapping the label, “global,” on to models that appeared to us to be culturally bound. In particular, U.S. companies and consultancies were exporting models featuring more extroverted, direct, and task-focused leadership styles that resonated in some cultural contexts but not in others. We sought to step back and examine the question, “What is different about leading in a global context?” and to identify specific behaviors linked with success in global leadership roles that aspiring leaders from any background could leverage.
2. What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from these books?
Working GlobeSmart: This book brings intercultural skills to daily management tasks such as assessing talent, running a global team, integrating a merger, or rolling out a change initiative. The “My Mistake” examples are autobiographical…
What is Global Leadership? This is a roadmap not only for global leadership but for a successful assignment abroad. The best part of the book is the pithy wisdom of the interviewees themselves, who are quoted at length in each of the core Chapters 3-7. What interculturalists learn about seeing and adapting to difference is the doorway to effective global leadership. Anyone can cultivate the global leadership behaviors the interviewees so richly describe.
3. Name one or two books in our field that influenced you the most, that you think all interculturalists should be familiar with? Why?
George Renwick has been a key influence on the lives and careers of both Aperian co-founder Ted Dale and myself, and the privilege of seeing him in person is better than any book! I’ve also been influenced by a wide range of other sources including Nancy Adler, Clifford Geertz, Frank Reynolds, Tom Rohlen, Peter Senge, Jack Condon, E.T. Hall, Geert Hofstede, John Kotter, Daniel Kahneman, Janet Bennett, and Clifford Clarke.
4. What is one of the most significant, most memorable cross-cultural experiences you have had?
Going to Mexico as a 15-year-old foreign exchange student was the first step on a career path that at that time didn’t have a name. I was suddenly using the Spanish I’d been learning in school and encountering a culture that was radically different from my own. I found it fascinating, difficult, embarrassing, and exhilarating all at the same time. My head hurt at the end of each day because I was learning so much. There were aspects of the culture that I loved as well as others that I was shocked to see. I could never go back to quiet small-town life after this.
5. If you could pass on only one insight/one lesson learned to others about crossing cultures, what would you say?
There is always a rhythm and a way of getting things done, but it takes a readiness to watch and listen in order to understand the visible and invisible currents shaping events.
6. This newsletter goes to nearly 1,000 readers, folks who are either in or interested in the field of intercultural communications. If you’d like to say something else to these folks, something we have not asked about in this questionnaire, feel free to add your brief comments here.
Our field is changing now more rapidly than at any time I can remember in terms of media, language, client priorities, and broader social and environmental pressures. We need to change, too, while preserving the basic value of bridging differences to create a better world.