“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” C Jung

What is Cultural Agility

What is Cultural Agility



The concept of cultural agility is multi-layered. It’s like an artichoke. There are plenty of layers and some of them are thorny, but at its core there’s a heart and at the core of our interactions there are PEOPLE.

Through the maze of shifting cultures we are really just looking to connect, listen, build relationships, and lead. And if you leave an artichoke on the stalk it will blossom into a beautiful flower.


There is an assumption that cultures have rules, learn the playbook and you can succeed. This worked well in the past where we built businesses and relationships within countries where the culture was fairly homogeneous (Japan, Germany).


Today our businesses are global and our major partners include China, Brazil and India. These huge countries with extraordinary diverse populations, they are multiracial, multicultural, and have countless cultural dimensions. In other words they are complicated. In a global business environment having knowledge of other cultures remains important, but in contemporary global interactions knowledge alone won’t cut it. Now you have to have skill, and that means having cultural agility.


Despite some of what you will see, this isn’t just a new name for Cross-Cultural and diversity training. Cultural Agility is the ability to communicate and build relationships by responding to cultural ambiguity and making adjustments rapidly and under control


To help explain what I mean, I will use a sport analogy. The basketball player Michael Jordan had a great athletic agility. There are countless highlight videos that show him jumping up for a shot with the ball in one hand and then, midair, passing the ball to his other hand to make the shot from the other side of the basket, because that’s where the best shot was. Jordan was able to react to fast-changing situations and change direction when necessary without losing control.


Cultural Agility is much the same, only it’s about people. Agility is a skill set that can be learned and improved. Sports coaches assess the agility of their player and train them to improve it.


At Sustain Leadership when working with leaders and teams the same applies. We assess the current level of cultural agility and train the skills to improvement.


Culturally Agile Leadership is about building authentic relationships while working together in order to understand and leverage myriad difference.


Check out the upcoming public session on cultural agility and contact us if you want to find out how Sustain Leadership can work with your leaders and teams to enhance performance and harness the skills of multicultural teams

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