Cultural intelligence: How to lead effectively in a globalized world

29 Oct 2020 | Learn & Grow | by Philip Schiele

Cultural intelligence: How to lead effectively in a globalized world

In the past decade, emotional intelligence has gained popularity in management literature as the sine qua non of modern leadership. Countless studies have proven its impact, not only on leadership effectiveness but also on employee satisfaction, motivation and retention. 

Philip Schiele is part of the Talent Development team at Delivery Hero

While emotional intelligence is without a doubt one of the traits needed for amazing leadership, it alone is not sufficient to lead across cultures in a globalized world, as Philip Schiele, from Delivery Hero’s Talent Development Team, explored in his thesis on leadership effectiveness in a globalized world. Discover more on his findings below. 

What is cultural intelligence?

Cultural intelligence is a fairly new construct that describes the capability to interact, relate and work in culturally diverse situations. This includes a person’s knowledge of different cultures with their unique history and behaviors, the ability to translate this knowledge into their own behaviors and the motivation to do so and explore cultural differences in a constructive way.

Why is emotional intelligence not enough to lead culturally diverse teams?

The fact that the business world is becoming more and more globalized doesn’t mean that cultural barriers are disappearing – quite the opposite is true. While global boundaries are falling away, cultural boundaries are on the rise.

The fact that the business world is becoming more and more globalized doesn’t mean that cultural barriers are disappearing

Emotional intelligence may help managers to decode and adapt behaviors and signals from their own culture, but as soon as they are confronted with an unfamiliar cultural situation their emotional intelligence can’t guide them anymore. In a quantitative study, I was able to show this unique effect of cultural intelligence on leadership effectiveness that goes beyond emotional intelligence.

What were the results of the study?

A total of 101 managers from global companies including Delivery Hero were asked to fill out a survey to assess their level of emotional and cultural intelligence as well as their transformational leadership score, which is commonly used to evaluate one’s leadership effectiveness.

Leadership development programs are most impactful when they include cultural components alongside emotional intelligence

The results show that a leader’s cultural intelligence can actually predict their leadership effectiveness in a cross cultural working environment. Similar results were already found in previous studies, but this is the first study that simultaneously took emotional intelligence into account, proving the unique effect of cultural intelligence.

As such, leadership development programs are most impactful when they include cultural components alongside emotional intelligence, as this will support managers with leading effectively in a globalized world.

How can managers boost their cultural intelligence at Delivery Hero and beyond? 

Delivery Hero’s Talent Development Team is offering a variety of formal and informal growth opportunities to address and foster cultural intelligence. Managers have the opportunity to attend internal trainings (currently hosted virtually) about leading culturally diverse teams. In these sessions we enable managers to explore different scales of cultural collaboration and empower them to exchange and learn from each other.

While learning about cultural differences is a good start, solely acquiring cultural knowledge won’t be enough. Cultural intelligence is much more about knowing how to behave when we don’t know how to behave.

Whether it is through leading a culturally diverse team or exchanging with colleagues from different cultures, there is always something to gain from opening your worldview

What will really set managers apart is their openness to explore their personal biases, embracing humility to promote communication across all levels, and creating a team environment where people feel fully heard and safe to express themselves. These behaviors are captured in Delivery Hero’s People Leader Principles which set the baseline for our managers to be amazing leaders in a globalized world.

The best way to boost your cultural intelligence after all is through cross cultural exchange and experiences. Whether it is through leading a culturally diverse team or exchanging with colleagues from different cultures, there is always something to gain from opening your worldview and embracing diversity and inclusion. In the end, we are Heroes because we care!

About the author


Philip Schiele
Philip Schiele

Associate, Talent Development
Delivery Hero