The first week of this four-week course focuses on ‘Modern Leadership’, offering an introduction to Cultural Intelligence, explore its evolution and relevance, and why it is integral to modern leadership, drawing upon a wide range of material developed by

“Founded in 1989 as a not-for-profit social enterprise, Common Purpose now runs local programmes for leaders in cities across the world, and our global programmes bring together leaders from over 100 countries across six continents.”

Opening Video: Julia Middleton, Founder & CEO, Common Purpose

Video: What is cultural intelligence?

Who are strong, culturally intelligent leaders?

Leaders with Cultural Intelligence (e.g.s include Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton):

It asks which other leaders are offering these skills … Pope Frances definitely popping straight into mind there!

Video: A Need for Cultural Intelligence (Jonathan Donner)

8 key reasons for the need for CI

  1. The need for collaboration (across continents) – 4
  2. The reality of networks (flatter social networks, capitalise on the opportunities) – 3
  3. The importance of trust (takes time to build – especially when frames of reference are different, quick to disappear) – 4
  4. The demands of demographics (generational divides) – 1
  5. The urban magnet (cities are growing) – 1
  6. The pressure to focus (leadership encourages niche focus, then to the top – needs to be broader again) – 2
  7. Growing world, shrinking leaders (global connectivity) – 2
  8. The spark of innovation (connecting diverse perspectives to create something new) – 3

If you have 20 currency points to share above, how and why would you do so?

People’s Stories

I have always found people’s stories fascinating … as I’ve got older I’ve sought to pre-judge less and less (clearly I fail at times), but am always interested in how people’s originating cultures, and their life/cultures since have shaped their lives. 

This section says (before sharing a number of stories): Cultural Intelligence comes through experience, and the willingness to learn from people who are very different from us. People who choose to reveal their knowledge, their history, their beliefs, their limits and their stories.

We are then asked to consider a couple of experiences in our own lives – positive/difficult experiences and how we worked with/adapted.

Choosing Icons

Choose an image or series of images which answer the following questions (gut instinct):

  1. What is most admired in leaders in the world you were born in and/or in the world you now work or study in?
    I’m looking at the ‘star’ as I think that indicates that ‘fame’ is often admired in many leaders in our world.
  2. What do you think should be most admired in a leader?
    The candle – the light that shows us the way – or time – given to those around (listening!)
  3. What gets in the way of developing Cultural Intelligence?
    The $ – too focused on getting the money in to look at other aspects?

Lots of other interesting answers in the comments!

Prerequisites Required

“We only develop Cultural Intelligence because people choose to share their ideas, thoughts, stories and aspirations. They will only do it if they think we have enough Cultural Intelligence not to judge, dismiss, ignore or discredit them.”

Video: Shuvo Saha

Culture means many different things, not just geographic/racial. Different teams, functions, industries and levels of seniorities in an organisation all have different cultures. Working within the Google Digital Academy – need to keep people on board in a fast-moving industry. Understanding individual, sub-team missions and how they fit with the bigger mission.


If you had 3 circles, for the past, the present and the future – what size would each have? The importance of each influences our decision making. Again, gut feeling:

  1. The Past: Culturally, this has shaped our understanding of the world, and what seems ‘normal’.
  2. The Present: It is important to live in the now, to take action now – to start change now.
  3. The Future: The whole world lies before us, and it can look radically different.

A fascinating range of insights from other people around the world, and which aspects affect.


Video: Julia Middleton

Worth revisiting the 3 circles exercise to consider what it tells us about ourselves and those we work with. Difference between understanding short-term and long-term past… Sees a weakness of leadership as little interested in the presence, but spends much time thinking about the possibilities of the future – can we celebrate the now more?

The importance of the question – WHY? Conversation around = richness of understanding.

Final Tasks

  1. Try food/a game or music from another culture! Done this many times … much from travelling, but also taking advantage of local opportunities. 
  2. What book would you recommend that would help improve our Cultural Intelligence? Again, most biographies, travel writing, historical stuff (especially history from below), insights into digital culture, dog in the nighttime re autism, etc. all offer fascinating insights and make me question what is ‘normal’ and why!
  3. Share a photo on Twitter or Instagram #showmeyourcity – well, I’m literally about to go in on the train so…

Reflective Leadership

Developing reflective learning practice (in a more systematic way)

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