Did you know that the very dense fibres in each cane of bamboo give the plant extreme flexibility, allowing it to bend without snapping? In earthquakes, a bamboo forest is actually a very safe place to take shelter, and houses made of bamboo have been known to withstand 9.0-magnitude quakes.
That’s why for thousands of years bamboo has been the go-to building material for most of the world. Some scientists believe that if bamboo were planted on a mass scale it could completely reverse the effects of global warming in less than a decade. It would also provide a renewable source of food, building material, and erosion prevention.
THE POWER OF BAMBOO
Bamboo is clocked as the fastest-growing plant on Earth. Some species have been measured to grow over 4 feet in 24 hours. A pole of bamboo can regenerate to its full mass in just six months!
I personally witnessed the extraordinary power of the bamboo in the Tuscan valley where I lived and worked. Every time I chopped down a bamboo cane, the same day small green shoots of a new bamboo would appear in the very same spot. This constant regeneration made me marvel at the strength of nature.
I believe that cultural intelligence has a similar power to grow and change the world. In the thickets of stereotype, indifference, and blind hatred that we see all around us, it is the green shoots of cultural understanding, rapport, and sympathy that have the greatest chance of transforming the globe’s political and spiritual ecosystem.
WE CAN ALL CHANGE
We are living in a period of extreme migrations, of innocent refugees fleeing from political violence, of homelessness, and poverty, and inequality. People are crossing borders in flight from terrorist groups, from unemployment, and from injustice in numbers that are throwing up isolationists and protectionists as never before.
Xenophobia is on the march in many countries of the world. There was a strong undercurrent of it in the campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union, and incidents of racial hatred have multiplied in Britain since the vote to leave the EU.
The drumbeat of cultural intolerance and isolationism has also been heard in the US, encouraging stereotypes of Mexicans and Muslims, among other groupings. Right-wing political parties have continued to expand their reach in European countries on an anti-immigration and nationalist platform.
And yet, and yet…
LEST WE FORGET
America is home to some of the most multicultural cities and states in the world. London has a Muslim mayor, voted for Remain, and is a vibrant and dynamic multicultural city, as are Birmingham and other British cities. However much the vote for Brexit in Britain was fuelled by frustration and a sense of powerlessness against the tide of globalisation, there is no reversing that tide.
It is ironic, but also a reason for celebration that Britain will now have to use all its intercultural expertise and historical experience to relate and negotiate better with European countries, with emerging markets like India and China, and to reconcile its own communities if it is to prosper after leaving the EU.
The ‘soft skills’ of cross-cultural and global leadership will be required even more, both in its cities and provinces, in its relations with Scotland and Ireland, and with individual European countries.
Rather than reversing the wave of globalisation, leaders will have to ride that wave. This means showing more understanding and empathy for local regions, for smaller cultures, for individual differences. The world is not a global village…although it may appear so. The more global we are, the more we must think locally.
AGE OF COOPERATION
We are also living in an age of unprecedented international and multilateral cooperation. Businesses and not-for-profit organisations, educational institutions, and government agencies are collaborating in ways that are unique in history.
As the process of globalisation continues, bringing with it special challenges for intercultural understanding, I believe cultural intelligence has a special power to help people change. Companies, business leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, and academics are all engaged in this process of change and transformation.
And just like the bamboo, which grows in phases marked by stronger circles on the stem, this is a process that can only evolve one step at a time, one cultural encounter at a time, as people reach out and flex their new-found understanding.
Cultural intelligence (CQ) and its four capabilities—Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action—are not individual and isolated aspects of our attempt to make the world a better place. They are interrelated stages in the process of becoming truly Intelligent Leaders in an increasingly complex world.
The Intelligent Leadership (IL) Executive Coaching Process is a 6 to 12 months “immersive” leadership and personal growth journey that unleashes a leader’s full potential so they truly become the best leaders and people they can be.
The IL blueprint strengthens a leader’s inner-core and outer-core, enabling them to realize 4 game-changing outcomes in their business and life: altruism, affiliation, achievement and abundance (4 A’s). These 4 A’s are the seeds of achieving sustained greatness and creating a lasting legacy.
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