Intercultural Change Leadership

Course Number: OCL 7410
Course Name: Intercultural Change Leadership (Online)
Course Description:    This course serves as an elective for the general MSOCL program.  It is designed to provide the basics in intercultural communication and change leadership and empower learners to handle a broad array of cultural differences in increasingly complex work environments. Individuals, team members, change agents and managers working in such an environment must be knowledgeable about other cultures and cultural differences. This course covers some of the field’s theoretical findings and practical applications in intercultural change leadership and enables the participants to apply this knowledge in a multicultural and multinational business environment.
Prerequisites:    BSAD5530 Organizational Behavior
Level: Graduate
Credits: 3
Format: Online
Program: Master of Science in Organizational Change Leadership

Registration Instructions

NOTE: The information below is representative of the course and is subject to change.  The specific details of the course will be available in the Desire2Learn course instance for the course in which a student registers.

Course Rationale
The MSOCL graduate program description focuses on development of, and practical applications for, principles of leadership, critical thinking, decision processes and resolution of problems.  These concepts are very attractive, and they capture a great deal of attention and interest.  However, they are hollow platitudes if their development and use are disconnected from people in all their diversity of identities, perspectives and experiences.  After all, arguably the core ingredient for leadership is the presence of followers.  Many of us have stories about situations where people in officially appointed or elected positions of power seemed to not understand, or even care about, the people who were relying on them.  Perhaps people were coerced or forced to follow them because of their position (e.g. employees, lower-ranking enlistees, students, etc.), but in the philosophy of this course, that is not leadership.

Rather, we will approach leadership as a form of social influence, which can be exercised by anyone regardless of position in an organizational chart.  Social and political influence can often be far more instrumental than a particular job title.  This is not to suggest that positional power is meaningless, just that it is not assuredly the factor that determines leadership capacity.  This can be very empowering to people who care about others and want to make positive differences for them, and it can be especially valuable when expressed by someone who does have an official role.  People and organizations are complicated, and they face challenges that are often intimidating and experienced within a fast-paced environment.  It is not surprising that many people “shut down” or avoid dealing with substantive issues.  This is not necessarily due to weakness or even lack of capability.  For people to grow, be creative, take risks, and achieve success, the conditions need to be in place for that to happen.  This course is essentially about what those conditions are, and how you can cultivate your leadership practice in a way that invites, includes and develops the best possible capacities and outcomes in organizations and communities, so that you and those relying on you can do things that matter together.

Because people are incredibly diverse in identities, backgrounds, temperaments, and so forth, it is not possible or desirable to treat them all the same.  There is a difference between treating people equitably versus identically.  It is very common for “equality” to be interpreted as treating people the same, but an intercultural leader is able to recognize both similarities and distinctions so that customized approaches can be taken in working with diverse groups of people.  This is very complicated, and perhaps more of an art than a science.  It is therefore critical to approach this challenge with humility and a willingness to hear and acknowledge those times when it doesn’t work so well.  Over time, that humility elicits trust and forgiveness, and sometimes even the willingness in others to try the path that you are proposing even if they disagree with it, but without the resistance and resentments produced by coercion and force.  The same philosophy applies to organizational diversity.  A wholesale acceptance of a familiar idea, even one that worked elsewhere is asking for trouble, but so is a knee-jerk rejection of an unusual idea.  Intercultural skill requires a reflective approach to identifying and deploying solutions, including an appreciation for the learning that comes from so-called failures. Modeling such modesty can be very powerful for generating a culture of curiosity and risk-taking.  The people in your organization are much more likely to make entrepreneurial decisions if you have contributed to safety for them to do so.  We will explore how these skills and dispositions can be developed and applied.

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, you should be able to

  • Describe the significance of cultural differences in everyday work life, expressed through different behaviors and practices.
  • Draw insights about your own identities, cultures and worldview, and the strengths and limitations of your own cultural “filters” when engaging with others.
  • Demonstrate the ability to think across cultural differences.
  • Practice increased sensitivity to, curiosity, and knowledge about other cultures, and recognition of different norms and practices for communication (greater cross cultural communication proficiency).
  • Apply knowledge of intercultural communication to describe different ways of acting in cross-cultural change management and leadership situations.
  • Reflect on the cultural foundations of organizational practices.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the impact cultural differences have on change initiatives and outcomes.
  • Practice critical and creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and written and oral communication skills in an intercultural context.
  • Identify specific aspirations, strategic goals and tactical plans for ongoing development of intercultural change leadership skills.

Unit Descriptions

Unit 1
In this unit, Community of Practice (CoP) members will become acquainted with each other, as well as the vocabulary and conceptual and theoretical lenses we will use for exploration of our topic.

Unit 2
In this unit, we will explore identity and culture as concepts and lived experiences.  Our identities are deeply personal, and yet their meaning is defined collectively through our many social interactions and the overt and implicit messages we receive from countless sources. We will take stock of our own identities, those of others, and the relationships and communication patterns that facilitate or inhibit learning and understanding across difference.

Unit 3
There are many sayings relating to change, and they are tied to the diversity of worldviews and beliefs about it.  In March 2014, a search for the term, “change” in the Amazon book department yielded over 162,000 results.  Clearly we have a significant relationship with this word and whatever it may mean for us—positive or negative—and our role in initiating, coping with, or preventing it.  In this unit, we will explore some of the viewpoints and belief systems connected to the ideas and experiences of change.

Unit 4
If you found the number of books about change surprising, then you might be shocked to know that on the same day, Amazon yielded nearly 900,000 results for “management.”  Interestingly, there were about 111,000 for “leadership.”  In any case, both terms suggest intentional effort to influence or even control people, projects, or systems.  The enormous number of books on these subjects suggests we have a wide array of opinions about, and approaches to such effort.  It also suggests there is a hunger for information, advice, skills, and inspiration to do so.  In this unit, we will consider management and leadership as forms of social influence, which helps us to honestly examine our values, ethical and philosophical stances, skills and tactical approaches to expressing positional, social, or political power with others.

Unit 5
Our course has involved examination of the three intersecting concepts: Intercultural, Change and Leadership with the goal of weaving them together into a cogent and actionable body of knowledge, skills and dispositions that can be incorporated into a strategic style. Our goal has been to do this in a culturally attuned and inclusive manner; inviting, inspiring and guiding a diversity of colleagues, clients or constituents along a shared path. Whether we are tasked with overseeing mundane daily activities with consistency and quality, or taking on intimidating and high-stakes risk, our philosophical orientation and human relations skills can determine success even more than technical skills. So, each of us will conclude the course with a clear sense of our assets and areas for further development in these key areas.

The course content was written in its entirety prior to your enrollment. Knowing humans pretty well, and given the complexity, breadth and depth of the issues, I assumed that by the time we reach Unit 5 that we almost certainly will have made adjustments to the course timeline to accommodate greater or lesser interest and discussion of the issues. As such, the lessons in this Unit were made a bit shorter than the previous ones, so that we can either complete the course on time, or add more about the issues and skills that generated the most engagement among students in a given semester.

In any case, this Unit is based on a popular framework known as the head, hands and heart model. There is no one origin to be cited, because it is so common. It is so common because it makes good sense to analyze and engage many contemporary issues in terms of thinking, feeling and acting. That said, different worldviews have alternative perspectives on whether these are truly distinct elements, just as is often the case when considering mind, body and spirit as necessarily singular or distinct. Wherever you are along the continuum in this regard, your viewpoint is welcome and of value.

So, while the three lessons are initially planned to correspond with three of the four final weeks, this unit also provides a safety valve so that we can wrap up on time while ratifying and committing ourselves to Intercultural Change Leadership in our professional and community practice.

Unit 6
At this point we have completed our content lessons and all but one assignment. In this lesson, we are simply putting closure on the course and revisiting any topics that remain confusing or incomplete. I have created a Discussion Forum in which you can raise any such issue or question and we can engage with each other to clarify or deliberate them. The commentary is focuses on closing out the course, and the last assignment is to draw upon all that we have read, discussed and learned in order to leave with a plan for continuing in your growth as an Intercultural Change Leader.

Grading Information
There are technically 14 distinct assignments, but don’t worry!  They vary widely in the size, scope and amount of preparation and work required in order to be fair, intentional, and to attend to diverse interests and learning styles.  They are listed in the chart below, and then described in somewhat more detail.  Additional information will be provided as the semester progresses.

Assignment Possible Points
Engagement Items (4) 150 points
Intercultural Learning Assignments (4) 350 points
Cultural & Educational Autobiography 100 points
Progressive Case Studys (2) 100 points
Statement of Leadership Philosophies & Applications 50 points
Intercultural Change Proposal 250 points
Total: 1,000 points

Group Assignments: 
Progressive Case Study Parts 1 & 2 - Group Assignment
The purpose for these assignments is to practice intercultural collaboration and analysis of an organization facing interpersonal challenges and transitions, including proposing ideas for navigating them.

The instructor will post a case study for students to analyze and deliberate with an assigned group.  Over the course of the assignment, which spans several weeks and two units, students will interpret, discuss and respond to a case study provided by the instructor.  Over time, new information will be posted that may challenge the effectiveness of the proposed responses, or in any event require new or modified efforts from the group.  This is intended to be challenging and fun, though short-term frustration may occur as well.

Grading Scale
A 940 - 1,000 points
A- 900 - 939 points
B+ 870 - 899 points
B 840 - 869 points
B- 800 - 839 points
C+ 770 - 799 points
C 740 - 769 points
C- 700 - 739 points
D 600 - 699 points
F 0 - 599 points


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