The Future of Leadership/Cross-Cultural Communication and Leading Global Teams



Increasingly, work is being defined by globalization that not only connects workers and businesses with international resources and services but also a global talent pool from a diverse range of cultural origins and experiences. The advent of the gig worker economy and talent agency have only hastened this international interconnectedness. With as many as 89% of white-collar workers from 90 countries saying they had worked in virtual teams with members from other cultures at least once, cross-cultural work is becoming the new normal.[1][2] While cross-cultural teams face many challenges, they also bring several benefits that outweigh these disadvantages. This article will discuss these challenges and benefits while also providing clear guidance on how to communicate in and lead cross-cultural teams.

Challenges & Benefits


There are numerous challenges that cross-cultural and global teams face. These challenges range from obvious obstacles like coordinating across different time-zones to the less obvious like how cultural norms influence expectations and meaning.[3] While logistical and resource challenges like coordinating time-zones and aligning project management tools may be resolved with time, less tractable differences like communication, cultural understanding, and expectations present the most significant difficulty to cross-cultural teams.[3][2] When these difficulties are not mitigated or controlled for, diverse teams experience less cohesion, have more interpersonal conflicts, and have more misunderstandings.[2] However, these challenges are outweighed by substantial benefits. Cross-cultural and global teams that are composed of individuals with diverse economic, institutional, and political experiences and understandings approach problems with more creativity, understanding, and idea generation.[2] Depending on the project, managers need to consider the following broad categories of diversity and their effect on creativity and task performance.

Personal Diversity Contextual Diversity
Challenges of diverse teams:
  • Less enjoyable working
  • Lower trust
  • Attribute negative meaning to motives
  • Less frequent and understood communication
Challenges tend to stem from differences in:
  • Levels of economic development
  • Types of institutions
  • Political system of one's country
Benefits of diverse teams:
  • Exhibit more creativity
  • Consider more options
  • Process facts more carefully
  • Less likely to succumb to groupthink
  • Ultimately make better decisions
Benefits of contextual diversity:
  • Positively affect task performance
  • Understand wider range of context
  • Diverse pools of knowledge and experiences
  • More views and perspectives aids creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving

Guidance & Recommendations


Considering these challenges and benefits, workers and leaders of cross-cultural and global teams should consider the following guidance and recommendations. First, leaders should pursue putting together teams with diverse backgrounds and experiences as well as interdisciplinary skill sets when work requires innovation, creativity, and novel ideas.[2] Second, challenges facing cross-cultural teams can be mitigated using communication and cultural sensitivity strategies. The strategies include awareness of one’s own culture as well as open-mindedness about cultural difference.[1]


  1. a b Stobierski, T. (2019, November 12). How to improve cross-cultural communication in the workplace. Northeastern University.
  2. a b c d e f Taras, V., Baack, D., Caprar, D., Jimenez, A., & Froese, F. (2021, June 9). Research: How cultural differences can impact global teams. Harvard Business Review.
  3. a b Mayer, M. & Bello, Y. (2012). Leading cross cultural teams in today's global marketplace. Project Management Institute.