Professor Nigel Holden of Leeds University Business School in the UK and member of ZEBS academic board and international faculty applies the leadership concept of contextual intelligence to the challenge of making sound judgements in foreign business contexts.

Wherever they are, international managers constantly encounter situations, in which they must take account of local of local behaviour, norms and assumptions, whilst applying good judgement in order to secure common cognitive ground with business partners. In a recent book three Harvard Business School professors conceded that this aspect of globalisation is not at all well conveyed in MBA education. One member of ZEBS academic board, Professor Nigel Holden of Leeds University Business School in the UK, has created a novel approach to the challenge.

In a three-day module he applies the leadership concept of contextual intelligence, that refers to the capacity to discern and diagnose complex contextual factors for improved decision-making, to international business operations.

His aim is enhance competence in cross-cultural judgement, communication and negotiation using as a selection of business cultures – Japan, Thailand, Russia and Germany – as reference points about contrasting management thinking, behaviour and ways of interaction. The formal input for the module deliberately uses ‘non-Western’ countries as a prism through which to view the Western business world and related management thinking (not the other way around!), whilst introducing unusual comparisons and contrasts – anything, according to Professor Holden, that forces ZEBS students out of their comfort zones. As he observes, ‘the world’s centre of economic gravity is shifting to Asia. This is why we must evolve ways of seeing the world in non-Western ways.’ He believes that his concept of contextual intelligence can assist in this process.