A New Leadership Culture Case Study


Based on case study of “A New Leadership Culture” we will try to answer how Kolab’s self-identity influences her ability to lead, then the cultural value dimensions, the organization and Kolab operate under. We will try to explore how Kolab can integrate organization’s cultural value with her own to be a better leader. Finally we will recommend cultural intelligence strategies for Kolab and her subordinates and we will identify the benefits organization will have those strategies.

Keywords: stereotyping, generalization, cultural intelligence

How does Kolab’s self-identify influence her ability to lead?

International Education Center had hired Kolab 6 months back. Before IEC, Kolab was a director of national programming and services for the Office of Refugee Resettlement or ORR in Washington, D.C. And before that Kolab worked for an international relief agency and she used to travel throughout Southeast Asia and Africa. She used to manage daily operations in the organization’s field offices in South East Asia and Africa.

Kolab was born in Cambodia and had to flee her country with the parents during Communist rule in her country. She grew up as a refugee in the USA. So she is motivated and passionate about international work, she is known as “go-getter” and a “high performer”.

            Here the key issue is, Kolab’s personal values do not match with the values of the employees of IEC. This is because of Kolab’s upbringing and what Kolab has faced in her life. She is focused, task and goal oriented. But Hanh had different values, she had good relations with everyone in the state and with her coworkers. They were much more relaxed ( as it appears). So, the employees of IEC do not like their new leader Kolab, who is liked by the board for her qualities and values though. The board wants to take the organization to national level from State level.

            Hanh who was with IEC for 10 years has stepped down and Kolab has taken her place. As we find out Hanh was well liked, but Kolab is not. Employees miss Hanh. Kolab is not being able to motivate them and neither can she engaged them. It is pretty evident that Kolab is a taskmaster and does not care for anyone’s personal life. She is not happy with the Organization’s culture either.

            It is difficult to lead this organization for Kolab since the culture here was much more relaxed, not really goal-oriented. Although Hanh maintains a good relationship with many people within the state the organization did not expand. The culture was more based on the personal relationship than focusing on goals or tasks. And Kolab is a goal oriented taskmaster. That is why due to the mismatch in values and cultures Kolab’s ability to leading the organization does not seem to be working.

What cultural value dimensions does the organization operate under?           

We learn about the cultural values of the organization in the text. The board wanted to expand to the national level, so they had a goal in mind. Hanh, the previous director, was very effective in personal relationship building. She left the organization after 10 years and Kolab was brought in to expand the organization as the board wanted it to. Then we see how the employees feel about Kolab and that gives us some idea about the culture too. There was a very good personal relationship among the employees. Hanh might have been an empathetic leader who motivated the employees. She was approachable and she did not make employees feel that they did not have a personal life.

What about Kolab?

            Kolab grew up as a refugee in the USA. Her motivation and passion was international work. She already worked in field offices in South East Asia and Africa. Kolab was known as a “go-getter” and “high performer”. She was a goal-oriented taskmaster. Kolab is focused towards taking the organization to the national level, and she wants to change the culture of the organization, she wants everyone to be more goal focused and achievement oriented. And that is why her employees feel so disconnected and demotivated.

How can Kolab integrate the organization’s cultural value dimensions with her own to ensure overall success?

            Kolab is new to the organization. Although she has work experience in other organizations, the culture of IEC is something new for her, and she needs to develop cultural intelligence. As a leader, she can sense she is not popular and she is not being able to motivate others. She wants to change the culture, attitude, and behavior of the employees. But, Kolab needs to figure out what is she lacking.

            Acquiring knowledge is crucial, she needs to understand that the organizational culture is a personal relationship based, everyone expects the leader to be approachable and empathetic. Kolab should get those understandings first. She needs to understand the cultural differences and what the culture of this organization is.

            Kolab has what the board would like. She is a go-getter and high performer. Now she needs to observe and actively listen to the other employees to understand, what they want in her. And then integrate those changes in her existing values.

            Then she needs to contemplate on her own behavior and how she could improve it. Probably she is so task focused she does not value personal bonds and she does not show much empathy. She needs to develop these, so her employees can depend on her and have trust in her. We have not seen any negative attitude in Kolab, and she should be positive in her mind about these changes too.

            Kolab wants to change the culture within the organization, but that is not possible overnight. She needs to first work on herself then work on others. Once she has developed good relationships with each employee, she needs to present her vision in front of employees. And be honest about it. She needs to communicate that this vision is coming from the board and the fact that Hanh could not deliver is in 10 years is one important angle. And then, Kolab needs to communicate her ideas about necessary changes in culture to obtain the vision. And she should be open to questions and inputs from the team members/employees, otherwise, they will not take this vision as their own.

What cultural intelligence strategies do you recommend for Kolab and her employees? How do these strategies benefit the organization?

           Managers should consider multiple forms of intelligence when assessing leadership potential, especially when work roles include responsibility for coordinating complex social interactions (Rockstuhl, Seiler, Ang, Van Dyne & Annen, 2011) Kolab does not have much knowledge about the culture of IEC. And her employees do not know the cultural background and values Kolab has. So both parties have to work on acquiring knowledge. Depending on the employee number, Kolab can meet with each employee individually weekly or monthly. It will give them the opportunity to interact with each other. The discussion agenda could be what the employee is working on if she has any impediment and what his or her goals and timelines are.

            Kolab can have an open door policy, which is if an employee needs to see her, she can go see Kolab in her office or Kolab can send out an email to employees stating that if anyone needs to approach her they can just send her a meeting request and get a time slot for the meeting.

            Kolab can have lunch with the employees to build rapport. Kolab understands from the remarks she overheard that she is not considered to approachable, she can employ these strategies and be approachable while not losing track of what she wants the culture should be. And Kolab should observe and actively listen more when employees talk to her, so she understands them better.

            The employees, on the other hand, should understand they have a new boss, and the new boss will have a different style. So they should actively listen more, observe more to increase their knowledge about Kolab.  More importantly, they need to understand what Kolab wants, what are her goals. If someone has any prior commitments after work they need to communicate it to Kolab via email or in person so that no one feels that they do not have a personal life. Most important part is understanding what Kolab wants and why, and they should ask questions if something is not clear to them. As Kolam and employees interact more, increasingly they will tell each other their stories and eventually they will find out more about each other. And that is how a bond will be formed among them.  Solomon & Steyn (2017) reports that there is a stronger relationship between a leader’s cultural intelligence and empowerment leadership. For example, empowering leadership, leader metacognitive and motivational cultural intelligence acted as essential antecedents, while for directive leadership, leader’s motivational, cognitive and metacognitive cultural knowledge played a predictive part that carried a common effect.

Now coming to the point, the board brought in Kolab with a specific goal and the organization needs to achieve it. Kolab can make that happen with her goal oriented attitude. And with time as this strategy works, the employees will feel more motivated and they will start liking Kolab too. It will be easier for Kolab to work with her employees too. This was, they all will be able to work as a team and reach the goal faster. 


Solomon, A. & Steyn, S. (2017). Leadership style and leadership effectiveness: Does cultural intelligence moderate the relationship? Acta Commercii, Vol 17, Iss 1, Pp E1-E13 (2017), (1), e1.

Maxwell-Wilson, S. A. (2016). Cultural Intelligence and Intercultural Leadership. Leadership & Organizational Management Journal, 2016(4), 2.

Rockstuhl, T., Seiler, S., Ang, S., Van Dyne, L., & Annen, H. (2011). Beyond General Intelligence (IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The Role of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) on Cross-Border Leadership Effectiveness in a Globalized World. Journal of Social Issues, 67(4), 825–840.