Running head: BOOK REVIEW






Book Review of Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment:

Developing Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills


Amy Sifford

Kok-Mun Ng

University of North Carolina at Charlotte




Authors’ Note:

Amy Sifford and Kok-Mun Ng, Department of Counseling, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Correspondence regarding this review should be addressed to Amy Sifford, Department of Counseling, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28213 (e-mail: .


Leadership in a diverse and multicultural environment: developing awareness, knowledge, and skills by Connerley, Mary L., and Paul Pedersen, 2005, Sage, 215 pages, $39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 0761988602.

Over the past decade, international and domestic organizations have recognized the critical need for their leaders to become competent in cross-cultural interactions. The transition to a global economy and the increasing diversification of the workforce in the United States support the ongoing need for research and training in this area. Competent multicultural leaders are essential to an organization’s success in the global market. Connerley and Pedersen provide a text designed for students in management or business and can also be useful to diversity trainers who are seeking to develop and enhance the multicultural competence of organizational leaders. Their text is a synthesis of workplace research, diversity initiatives, and multicultural counseling competencies in research and theory.

            In multicultural counseling, all interactions with clients are considered multicultural in nature. Connerley and Pedersen adapt this underlying principle to leadership in that “all leader interactions are multicultural in nature” (p. 77). Multicultural counseling is a helping role and a process characterized by the use of universal and cultural specific strategies that are consistent with the lived-experience and cultural values of the client. This approach is predicated on the acknowledgement of a three-dimensional human existence (i.e. individual, group, and universal) that is balanced between individualism and collectivism in a socio-cultural context. Therefore, in addition to focusing on the client, the role of the counselor also focuses on the client’s systems and when necessary, acts on these systems to produce change in the spirit of social justice. Counselors engaging in multicultural counseling must possess certain competencies. Existing models of these competencies include three primary domains: (a) awareness of one’s own values, beliefs, and biases; (b) knowledge about the culture of various ethnic groups; and (c) culturally relevant interventions (Sue & Sue, 2003).

            Applied to the organizational leader, the authors describe multicultural leadership as a role and a process that is flexible when considering multiple cultural perspectives in the workplace. Multicultural leaders balance the needs of the organization with the needs of employees, and ensure all employees, customers, colleagues, and stakeholders in the organization are treated with respect and dignity regarding their individual, group, and universal dimensions. Multicultural leaders are engaged in the ongoing process of multicultural competence through awareness, knowledge, and skills and use their growth in these areas to address inequalities in the workplace, advocate for changes within the organization, and act to create work environments that embrace and value diversity. Connerley and Pedersen’s text offers an in-depth scholarly framework for applying the principles of multiculturalism from the counseling field to the diverse and multicultural work environment of the 21st century.

            Much of the text’s framework to approaching diversity and multiculturalism in the workplace is based on research from the field of counseling, namely the three stage development sequence for developing multicultural counseling competency: awareness, knowledge, and skills. Connerly and Pedersen postulate that this developmental sequence when applied to organizational leaders offers promise towards cross-cultural competence that is multidimensional in comparison to global competency lists that are available to organizational leaders. However, the text is not a “how to” approach or a “cook book” strategy for students, novice leaders or novice diversity trainers charged with the task of implementing workplace diversity initiatives. Rather, the text presents an advanced empirically and theoretically based foundation on which advanced students and experienced diversity trainers and leaders can structure and organize their efforts toward hiring, training, and retaining competent multicultural leaders for a diverse workforce. Hence, unless the reader has some basic understanding of multiculturalism and multicultural competence, this text will not be sufficient due to the complexity of culture and the need for awareness of one’s own culture, attitudes, values and beliefs. For students, we recommend this text be used in an advanced course only if students have had a prerequisite diversity or multicultural course that emphasized self awareness.   

            Chapters 1 through 4 introduce the reader to a broad definition of culture. Culture is presented as fluid and complex and approached from a multicultural perspective that considers (a) demographic variables such as age, gender, sexual orientation, and geographic location; (b) status variables such as socio-economic status, social class status, and educational status; and (c) ethnographic variables such as nationality, ethnicity, religion, and language. Models of culture are presented to illustrate how these dimensions of culture interact within group members and between cultural groups. Readers are introduced to how their personal culture, national culture, and organizational culture work together. The authors emphasize that leaders who understand this interrelatedness are more likely to decrease errors in interpreting cross-cultural communications between their culturally different employees, customers, and others involved in the organization.

            Moving from the broad dimensions of personal, national, and organizational culture, the authors introduce readers to within group differences through an examination of racial identity models, emotional intelligence, and learning styles. Focusing on within group differences serves to remind the reader that while groups may share a broad cultural identity, the individuals who comprise these groups are not uniform and their within group differences often exceed between group differences. While these chapters provide examples of how many national and international companies are addressing the need for multicultural competency in the workplace, minimal attention is given to the racial identity models, White privilege, male privilege, and the consequences of being socialized within a racist society. These issues are important to developing multicultural awareness thus we reiterate the caution that this book is not a “how to” manual nor will it be useful to students, leaders, or trainers without prior multicultural education.

            Chapter 5 is a key chapter in the book in that it serves as a bridge between the first four chapters and the remaining four chapters. This chapter introduces the Multidimensional Model for Developing Cultural Competency (MMCD) (Sue, 2001). Developed for increasing multicultural competency in counselors, Connerley and Pedersen adapt the MMCD to increase multicultural leadership competencies. While the authors include several lists of global leadership competencies in the chapter, the MMCD provides the framework for introducing the three stage developmental sequence of multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills required of multicultural leaders. Of particular interest is the third dimension of the MMCD, namely the foci of cultural competence as it is applied to the organizational leader. The foci are the individual/personal level, the professional level, the organizational level, and the societal level. Barriers in any one, in any combination, or in all levels will impede the leaders’ ability to continue their journey toward multicultural competence.

            At the personal/individual level, unless leaders are willing to address their personal biases, beliefs, and behaviors related to multicultural incompetence, their ability to lead in a diverse work environment will be hindered. By the same token, if leaders are ready, willing, and able to address their needs at the personal/individual level but are unwilling on a professional level to advocate and support policies and procedures that reflect multiculturalism, the work environment will remain culturally encapsulated. Further, those individuals who value multiculturalism on a personal and individual level and work in an organization that does little to value diversity their actions toward change may not be supported. Competent multicultural leaders can be instrumental in taking the lead to insist organizational policies and procedures to be inclusive and respectful to all employees. Finally, if the organization is committed to multiculturalism, unless its leaders seek to impact inequalities in society by developing and institutionalizing policies and programs that allow for equal opportunities for historically marginalized groups, the organization is not multicultural in its practices.

            Chapters 6 through 9 examine theoretical models for training programs that attend to the three stage developmental sequence of multicultural competence for leaders. In Chapter 6, the authors explore ways to make diversity training more effective. This Chapter seems to be disconnected from the previous chapters as well as from the remaining ones. Of interest in this chapter is a brief discussion of the evolution of and problems with diversity training. But this information might be better presented in Chapter 7. Chapter 6 could be submitted at the close of the book to give the reader a guide for designing an effective training sequence for leaders and/or employees.

            Chapters 6 and 7 provide the reader with training techniques designed to stimulate awareness, knowledge, and skills in a diverse environment. Training approaches to meet these objectives are described such as using experiential techniques like immersion into a culture different from one’s own or guided field trips to a host culture. The intrapersonal and interpersonal cultural grids are introduced as a culture-centered model for handling conflict in the work place. The authors close the text with a call to align leadership training in the 21st century with multiculturalism. Current and future leaders should be flexible in their leadership style, be it relationship-oriented or task-oriented, and accept that no one leadership style is universally effective, particularly a style that is not grounded in a multicultural perspective. Being a competent multicultural leader lends a more accurate understanding of the emotions and needs of all employees, particularly the culturally different.

            While the book focuses on organizations in the United States, each chapter includes descriptions and examples of cross-cultural interactions in other regions such as India, Japan, China, Latin America, and the Netherlands. Position statements regarding the importance of diversity from such well known international corporations such as Proctor and Gamble, the Honda Motor Company, and United Parcel Service illustrate the actions these and many organizations are taking to become more competitive in the global marketplace. Multicultural competence training required by these companies of their future leaders indicates the growing effort in the corporate arena to groom competent multicultural leaders.

For the advanced student of organizational management or culture, Connerley and Pedersen have compiled an invaluable review of the literature, both seminal and current, on cross-cultural management trends and activities to enhance multicultural leadership competency. In this relatively short text, the authors examine theories such as Hofstede’s model of culture and organization and Sue’s Multidimensional Model of Cultural Competency. A framework is given to put the two disciplines together to help leaders get the most out of leading in a diverse and multicultural environment. Multiculturalism continues to gain momentum as we strive to live in a world without borders.

             As representatives of the counseling field, we find it interesting to see multicultural counseling theory applied to the field of business. We are impressed by the amount of energy and resources spent on diversity initiatives in the workplace. We are also encouraged by the value being placed on lessons learned from the field of counseling and their applicability to preparing multicultural leaders. We would recommend this book as a supplement to a management or business graduate course because of the thorough literature review and theoretical overviews of leadership, learning, and cultural competence the authors have presented. It could also be a valuable resource for those interested in developing diversity trainings in an organizational setting. The critical incidents and activities presented at the end of each chapter could be utilized in training programs. However, there was but brief suggestions and guidance from the authors as to how to implement or process them with training participants. While the scope of the theoretical information was broad and at times confusing, overall we found the book to be very informative and an excellent reference on diversity initiatives in the workplace.















Sue, D. W. (2001). Multidimensional facets of cultural competence. Counseling Psychologist,

            29, 790-821.

Sue, D. W. & Sue, D. (2003).  Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice.

            New York: John Wiley & Sons.