Applying Cultural Intelligence to Develop Adaptive Leadership

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This article discusses cultural intelligence and its importance in enhancing adaptive leadership. Cultural intelligence consists of motivational, cognitive, metacognitive, and behavioral capabilities. These capabilities enhance the ability to cope with change and support the adjustment to culturally diverse situations. This conceptual paper extends an existing model of adaptive leadership based on adaptive capacity and adaptive skills. We introduce a model linking cultural intelligence to adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership involves flexing one’s thinking and behavior in response to organizational challenges. We demonstrate an application of the model to a workplace scenario and portray effective and ineffective responses to handling the challenges of a non-inclusive workplace. The four cultural intelligence capabilities promote mental and behavioral flexibility essential for transformative learning (learning by assimilation and accommodation). Cultural intelligence further enhances the ability to apply adaptive skills (i.e., cultural competence, knowledge acquisition and use, creating synergy from diversity, and adopting a holistic and sustainable vision). Our paper elaborates on an adaptive leadership model. We advance adaptive leadership requirements thinking through our interpretation, whereby adaptive capacity is general and context-free, but adaptive skills are specific and context-dependent. We also introduce a conceptual model on the relationship between cultural intelligence and the adaptive leadership requirements of adaptive capacity and adaptive skills. In this model, cultural intelligence positively influences adaptive capacity and adaptive skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-70
Number of pages15
JournalOrganization Development Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec. 2022


  • adaptive leadership
  • change
  • cultural intelligence
  • equity diversity and inclusion
  • learning
  • resilience
  • workplace learning


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