15.996 | Fall 2004 | Graduate
Cross-Cultural Leadership


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

Cross Cultural Leadership is a collaborative research seminar that examines what constitutes “effective” leadership across cultures. The underlying theme of this course is that the skills and behaviors that are perceived as effective leadership characteristics in one culture are not necessarily those that will be effective in a different culture. By exploring the ways in which specific characteristics are valued differently by different cultures, the students acquire frameworks for assessing how to approach a work assignment in a culture that is not their own.

This course is collaborative because the students are expected to provide some of the content. The weekly readings target particular aspects of cultural differentiation. Working within those topics, teams of students are asked to describe aspects of leadership in particular cultures based on their research and/or personal experiences. Students use both formal presentations and informal discussions to engage each other in learning about different cultural expectations. The goal of the course is to help prepare students for business assignments outside of their native countries.



Summary of Major Assignments

  • Class participation
  • Contribution of class content
  • Cross-cultural dialogues
  • End of course paper

Description of Major Assignments

  • Class participation - I look for attentive, active participation in class. Missing more than one class will jeopardize a student’s grade.

  • Contribution of class content - each week the class focuses on a different topic based on the assigned readings. The class is grouped into teams; each team is responsible for expressing how that aspect is experienced in a specific geographic region. The team contribution is based on research and/or personal experience. Sometimes the team will make a formal presentation; sometimes the team will contribute to the discussion without making a formal presentation. Whether a formal presentation or informal discussion - the team point of view is made available to the class (and only to the class) via an online MIT forum called Sloan Space.

  • Cross-cultural dialogues - most weeks a pair of teams will explain how their countries/regions would handle a situation that is relevant to the current readings. After each of those teams makes a BRIEF formal presentation, there is a class discussion on that topic. Therefore, each team is expected to have a point of view on this additional topic.

  • End of course paper on some aspect of leadership across cultures - Compare/contrast some aspect(s) of leadership (the ability to influence people in a business context) from at least two cultures/regions. Ideally the students will pick topics that are useful to them, something that has value to them and their future plans. They can do it individually or in small groups, no more than three people in a group.

Course Format

This is an interactive seminar. Most weeks we follow a similar format: a discussion of the theory for the week, informal presentations and discussions of how each team’s region maps to the theory under discussion and a further discussion on a specific situation that is led by two teams that do presentations on that topic.

Basis for Grade

This course is graded Pass/Fail. As is true in so many things, the students will get out of this course what they put into it. In order to Pass, all assignments must be completed and handed in on the last day of class with appropriate effort.

Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2004
Learning Resource Types
notes Lecture Notes
assignment Activity Assignments