The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Danelia Gossop '23 RGLP Reflection: Third Culture Leadership

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While a leader’s style and values can ultimately shape the culture of the group being led, it also works the other way around in the sense that our culture is a product of our experiences. Culture does not necessarily have to be tied to a particular nation or people. Still, there are many people whose ethnic background plays a vital role in their values and beliefs, myself included. Culture also encompasses our habits, morals, knowledge, or very simply — our way of life. Because we all live different lives with unique experiences, we tend to form personal biases. Keeping this in mind, when we enter foreign spaces, it is natural for us to hold on to our biases because they are what we are familiar with, even if we say that we are open-minded and not prejudiced. Due to this very natural human tendency, I believe that it is necessary to create a third culture in multicultural spaces to fully enable effective and fair leadership. The third culture would imply that there are two other cultures present in these spaces;  there is the culture of each individual and there is the local culture of the region or country. As mentioned earlier, our culture comprises the things we choose to live by. The culture of a country is broader and includes more explicit and straight-forward aspects of culture such as language, communication, religion, social norms, and so forth. The need for this third culture is essential for there to be a general understanding of the group’s values, interests, and goals. If there is no common ground or intersectionality, it becomes increasingly difficult for a space to be globally competent. In such a case, there would be less initiative to act for the collective well-being and hindrances to growth through curiosity and interactions. This could also send the message that differences in perspectives and ideas are not understood and/or appreciated. In the end, people like to feel like they belong and can relate to someone or a group. Where we are interconnected and diversity — not just in numbers — is appreciated, we are better equipped to collaborate and be successful.

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