January 20, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
Business leadership today is global. There’s no debate on that. Not everyone will become a player in a multi-national company – and some may never do any business outside the United States. However, we are all global citizens in an increasingly flat world who need to appreciate that our leadership decisions and choices may be local in operation, but they are always global in impact.
How do we teach people to be productive global citizens? Do we even know what being a good global citizen today means?
The questions have been on my mind all week as I prepare for the first class in Global Management, the course surrounding our international residency. I’m taking our second year Executive MBAs to three cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin) this spring, and the course is designed to enable them to make the most of that learning experience.
The syllabus and mechanics are in order. My scholarly area is management education; and I’ve got enough experience, pedagogical savvy and developmental theory under my belt to design a pretty integrated and nifty course.
China is a rapidly changing nation of great accomplishment, influence, mystery, and paradox to the Western eye. I’m no China scholar, so I’ve asked distinguished professionals with on-going, hands-on experiences in China to join me in helping students unravel the paradoxes and mystery as they learn about China’s history, culture, economy, law, and business environments.
I’m sure students will enjoy and learn from this. But I have bigger goals for them – and figuring out how to accomplish those is what’s kept me on edge.
I want our students to learn to see China through Eastern and Western eyes. More important, I want them to understand why that’s so important, so difficult, and so vital to their professional development in an increasingly diverse work world. All that is not going to come simply from reading cases and articles, interacting with our distinguished guests, or even travelling abroad. It’s going to require time, a new level of openness to experience, self-reflection, and some deep digging to identify their own lenses and cultural blinders. Oy! And I only have five class sessions in KC and eleven days in China to accomplish this.
I know only too well these are high expectations. Some twenty plus years ago, Jean Ramsey and I joined with colleagues to explore how to create educational experiences that broaden others’ understanding of and comfort with diversity and differences, as well as how to deconstruct the dynamics in the learning. We wrote about that in Teaching Diversity: Listening to the Soul, Speaking from the Heart; and we concluded that exploring differences, working to build emotional and cultural intelligence, and getting people to a place where they can name differences without triggering the human urge to evaluate (or devalue) them is complex and emotion-laden teaching. And developmental growth of this kind takes time.
Activities, for example, can seem touchy-feely for those who live in their heads and are anchored in their local worlds, threatening to those with quick evaluative and ethno-centric lenses, or simplistic to people who just don’t get it. In those cases, primitive displacement can get triggered – along with some nasty comments come course evaluation time!
But hey, every professor knows if you’re looking for love in the classroom, you’re looking in the wrong place. Good teaching challenges like nothing else, and sometimes it takes years for students to realize what they really learned from their work with you.
So, wish me luck. Class is Friday, 8 am. I’ll keep you posted.