Friday, September 14, 2007

Imported Leadership Training

As a faculty advisor for a local college here in India, one of my responsibilities is to read doctoral dissertations. I am presently working with three students and they are sending me their work, chapter-by-chapter, for my input and correction. Like all students, some are good; others need a lot of work. One of the discouraging things about some of their presentations is they “cut and paste” submissions, meaning they have taken an outline or a paper previously written in another class and try to submit it as a chapter for their thesis. It doesn’t work. A good thesis must be good writing; it can’t be read like last Sunday’s sermon outline.

Today’s mission Franchiser (yes, this is an extended thought from a previous post) is very much like my students papers, they are often warmed over cut and paste presentations people use in their home country. One of the most popular subjects for seminars is leadership development. Everyone has an idea on what makes a good leader and books on leadership are as plentiful as diet books. I quit buying such books a few years back because they are all basically the same. In my database I typed in the word leadership and came up with:

Principle Centered Leadership
Biblical Leadership
Leadership as Art
Effective Leadership
Servant Leadership
Nigerian Leadership
Roving Leadership
Leadership Control
Matriarchal Leadership

And the list goes on. I won’t even begin to share with you the list for words like, “leader” “manger” or “follower” in my data files.

So the Franchiser wants to visit the foreign field and do a seminar on leadership, as though this is a new concept. Perhaps it is for many. But in the end it will be a cut and paste presentation, created in his cultural context with the expectations that it will translate transculturally. The reality is, it won’t. Leadership principles, though similar, are different in every cultural context. Like my students, if the Franchiser can demonstrate how to bridge the gap between the general concepts to fit within the cultural context they will have made a great contribution. But to do that, they will have to understand the context – they will have to know the questions before they give the answers. Pasting concepts doesn’t often stick.