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Global Teams: Creating Cross-cultural Leadership

30 September 2016

On the 22nd of September, we, the Head Students embarked on a journey to Penang, Malaysia along with representatives from fourteen other international schools across Asia for the third annual FOBISIA Student Leadership Conference. This year, the theme was “cross-cultural leadership”, based on the book ‘The Culture Map’ by Erin Meyer which was all about adapting leadership styles to different cultures in an increasingly globalised world.

  • FOBISIA Student Leadership Conference 4
  • FOBISIA Student Leadership Conference 8
  • FOBISIA Student Leadership Conference 18
  • FOBISIA Student Leadership Conference 3

Understanding, respecting and acting upon the nuances of certain cultures, however small or large they might be, can significantly maximise success in any context. As members of an international school, and to-be members of international universities and workplaces, it is imperative that we are open minded in all that we do.

We also had a chance to step back and take a look at our own character strengths and weaknesses through the “VIA Survey of Character Strengths” from the University of Pennsylvania. It was interesting to see that as a team we all showed characteristics that supported and balanced out each other.


  1. Humour and Playfulness

  2. Social intelligence

  3. Creativity, ingenuity and originality

  4. Leadership

  5. Fairness, equity and justice

Hae On:

  1. Capacity to love and be loved

  2. Citizenship teamwork and loyalty

  3. Love of learning

  4. Fairness, equity and justice

  5. Appreciation of beauty and excellence.


  1. Judgement, critical thinking and open-mindedness

  2. Industry, diligence, and perseverance

  3. Caution prudence and discretion

  4. Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness

  5. Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness


  1. Creativity, ingenuity, and originality

  2. Curiosity and interest in the world

  3. Leadership

  4. Kindness and generosity

  5. Zest, enthusiasm, and energy

Throughout the two days, we had the privilege of learning about effective leadership from notable individuals such as Paul Hoiness, the Danish Ambassador, who had experience in constructing positive trade relations with countries across the world.  Members of the Australian Royal Air Force spoke to us about leadership characteristics and values within the military and in wider contexts. Hearing about their missions in Rwanda after the genocide and in culturally different places such as Papua New Guinea broadened our perspective on how leadership styles should attune to each environment and situation.

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Some of the key ideas that we found particularly interesting and wanted to bring back to BIS were:

  1. Design Thinking: a method that can be used to scaffold ideas and solve complex problems when addressing points of concern in the Prefect Team and the Student Council. By creating hypothetical scenarios and applying design thinking to them, we can learn about how to form effective and efficient solutions.

  2. Being aware of different cultural communication styles which could sometimes lead to conflict. We learnt about the difference between High Context Language Cultures and Low Context Language Cultures, and the importance of ensuring that everyone on your team is using the same communication pattern (sometimes difficult in international teams). We should acknowledge and respect cultural differences and make sure that it doesn’t promote exclusivity, for example when welcoming new students to the BIS community.

  3. Globalisation: as we are living in an increasingly globalised community, we learnt the significance of adapting to and being sensitive towards different cultures. With the skills that we’ve gained from the conference, we will be able to be more aware of the different cultures in our diverse community and use this to maintain a happy school environment.

We are excited to implement our new thoughts and ideas to our upcoming projects as Head Students and to share what we’ve learnt with the Student Council and Prefect Team in the coming weeks. Thank you once again to the International School of Penang (Uplands) for hosting such a wonderful conference, and allowing us to interact as well as learn from the fervent student leaders across the continent.

Haeon Yoon, Steven Vo, Steve Ko and Saanya Mishra, BIS Head Student Team