Web Exclusive: Farid Muna argues that if companies fail to hire and develop multicultural leaders, they will be unable to build a sustainable globalcompetitive advantage.

In today’s turbulent, global economic environment, companies can succeed only if they become more multicultural both in their business practices and in their choice of leaders. But what are the characteristics of a successful multicultural leader?

To answer that question, my co-author Ziad Zennie and I did extensive field research in a dozen countries in the Middle East.

The findings showed that multicultural leaders are cosmopolitan and worldly, they have acquired the cultural sensitivity necessary to bridge cultures (even when working within the same country) and are able to conduct business effectively across national borders.

Unfortunately, however, such multicultural leaders are in short supply. As a result, many companies are handicapped not only by a lack of diverse and multicultural senior management at their home offices, but they send executives overseas who, while they have the right technical and core business competencies needed to manage projects or business units while working in their home country, turn out to lack the cross-cultural skills needed to conduct business effectively with other cultures and nations.

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