Personal and organizational leadership occurs within the context of global systems. The relevance to leadership and the complexity of these general or comprehensive systems is reflected in the rapidly changing ethnic composition of organizations, the ability of political change to radically alter the environment, and the extent to which international issues, including trade and employment, impact local situations.
Systems thinking provides the theoretical underpinnings for the cultural, political, and international dimensions of the program. The unit as a whole and the nature of its relationship to the surrounding environment is the primary concern; the parts of the system that are assumed to work together for the overall objective of the whole are secondary (Haines, 1998, p. vi).
Cultural competency is based on an understanding of culture as knowledge people use to generate and interpret social behavior. Culture is constantly in flux and because it is learned and shared, and therefore can be changed. Cultural competency is about developing an understanding that allows leaders to recognize the role of culture, and in turn transcend their own culture. Subsumed under cultural competency are the cultural aspects of (a) knowing oneself (b) knowing others (c) knowing issues, and (d) working with others.
Political competency requires understanding the interplay of policy and power goals in political systems, and of the geographical and economic implications of political action. Policy provides the interface between leaders and systems. Leaders, regardless of their level, are always both impacted by policy and have a responsibility to discern and implement policy that deepens and enhances the human experience by creating greater freedom and wisdom in the person, the organization, and society as a whole.
International competency means seeing the world as a diverse, heterogeneous community composed of different communication, social, political, economic, and fiscal systems. Leaders who engender meaning and purpose in others are able to deal with these systems by understanding the implications of modernization, dependency, and world-system theories of leadership (So, 1990).
Technological competency provides powerful tools for influencing policy and, notably, the political competencies required for responding to and changing policy are significantly different when they are exercised in virtual organizations. The technological explosion also requires consideration of ethical issues like the implications of the digital divide separating individuals based on wealth, education, gender, ethnic identity, and nationality (Dyson, 1998).
Questions to explore through coursework in this dimension include:
- If we truly saw one another as gifts to each other, how would our world be different?
- If we live in a world we have socially constructed, how might we re-construct a better world?
- How can multinational relationships be created that are trusting yet challenging, supportive yet provocative, visionary yet practical?
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