Cross-Cultural Leadership: How to Create People Alignment (Part 3)

Green globe baloons

Photo: Tuppys/Flickr (Creative Commons)

This series is about people alignment as a crucial competence for today’s leaders. Especially in a globalized world, where cross-cultural and multinational challenges are becoming more and more a normal part of the leader’s job. Successful leaders create people alignment and they do it by mastering three elements of alignment. In Part 1 I describe the first element: ‘personal alignment’. Part 2 describes the second element of people alignment: ‘team alignment’. In this Part 3 I highlight the third element: ‘organizational alignment’.

Why organizational alignment is important

Without having a sufficient level of personal alignment, leaders will experience difficulties with creating team alignment. Without having a sufficient level of leadership team alignment, leaders will experience difficulties with creating organizational alignment. A pitfall for executives is to believe that creating organizational alignment is primarily the domain of line-management. ‘The top should focus on strategy and financial targets, the execution and aligning the organization around the strategy is the job of line-managers.’ False! The 21st century’s business reality does not allow this.

The idea that senior leadership teams can stay out of sight in order to be able to focus their energy on the strategy (and believe that their team’s behavior will not trickle down into the organization) is a big mistake. In today’s fast evolving businesses, senior leaders play a crucial role in creating organizational alignment around vision and direction, focus, strategy, values, change execution, desired behavior, teamwork and cross-departmental collaboration. They interact actively with the organization on all levels. And this is even more important in multinational and cross-cultural environments where perceived cultural differences can enhance misalignment. Leadership teams who do not actively invest time in creating organizational alignment run the risk of getting disjointed from their organization, of not knowing anymore what is really going on, of not being aware of what the organization is expecting from them and not knowing how they are perceived by the organization.  The leadership team’s ability to create organizational alignment has a strong impact on the business’ success.

How leaders can spot a lack of organizational alignment

How can you spot lack of organizational alignment in general, and more particularly in cross-cultural environments? How to create your ‘leadership compass’ that guides you to potential weak spots in the organization’s alignment? The following questions might help you in building your compass:

  • What is the employees’ perception of me as leader? And of us as leadership team? Is it a consistent picture? How do cross-cultural aspects affect this picture? To what extend do we as leaders enhance this picture?
  • To what extend is our vision, strategy and focus really shared by our employees and managers? Do they show ownership? If not, what are they missing?
  • What is our corporate culture? Do we have one or multiple corporate cultures? Do we as leadership understand the culture(s) and the impact on our performance well enough? What do we do to support managers and employees to create cross-cultural effectiveness?
  • Do I know the concerns of managers and employees in the organization well enough? How do I listen to their concerns and ideas? What can I do to improve this? How can I create a closer communication loop without being perceived a micro-manager who is interfering with their responsibilities?
  • Do we know and understand well enough the obstacles that are hindering our managers and employees in the execution of our strategy? If not, why is this? What can I and we as leadership team do to remove these obstacles? How do we support them to be able to remove the obstacles themselves?
  • How good is our organization with collaboration cross-department, cross-division, cross-region? What are we missing? What can we as leaders do to stimulate this? How should we support/coach our managers with this?
  • Do we know the potential and talent of our people well enough? Do we know what qualities we specifically need to build our success? Are there cross-cultural differences in these qualities? Do our managers and employees know these qualities too? If not, how is this affecting our future as a company? How can we as leaders support people to develop and use their talent to build our future?
  • How do we share and transfer knowledge within the organization? How well do we take cross-cultural differences into consideration when we share? How well do I and we as leadership team share successes and openly show appreciation to teams and individuals in the organization? How good are we as organization in coaching/mentoring each other? What can we as leaders do to influence this positively?

How do you create alignment in cross-cultural environments? What is the level of alignment in your organization? What questions would you add to the list above? Please share your ideas and thoughts.

This post is based on my keynote called ‘How to Strengthen Your Cross-Cultural Compass’, a condensed and energizing program designed for leaders who face the challenges of leading cross-cultural organizations and teams. If you would like to know more about this program don’t hesitate to contact us.


Aad is an international business advisor, business transformation expert, leadership team facilitator and executive coach. He works with executives and leadership teams of multinational companies and focuses specifically on four topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, ‘post-merger integration’, and ‘amplifying business performance’. Find out more about Aad and his services. Feel free to contact Aad for more information.

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4 Comments on “Cross-Cultural Leadership: How to Create People Alignment (Part 3)

  1. Aad,
    Great list of questions. If any manager were to take 30 minutes to reflect deeply on any one of them and begin to take action, they’d begin to make improvements at least within their spheres of influence. I’m keen on the fourth bullet – listening to others. What I’m seeing with clients is too much talking by managers to employees and not listening and speaking from where the conversation goes.

    Good stuff, Aad.


  2. Pingback: Adjust Your Focus So You Can See Clearly | Social Behavioral Patterns–How to Understand Culture and Behaviors

  3. Pingback: Adjust Your Focus So You Can See Clearly | Blog | Organizational Change

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