Romanian women leading a cross-cultural team: what are the challenges?

In the previous article we discussed the challenges that the leader of the team of engineers– a Colombian woman- had to go through. The mixture of cultures made this unique experience a bit spicy – five British and four Indian specialists were not mixing well, in fact the results of the projects showed that there was no team established at all. Now let’s see how would things look like if the leader of the team were a Romanian woman. Feel free to add you insights on the situation by e-mailing [email protected]

By Irina Budrina

Comments from our readers showed that a woman from Colombia with a diplomatic business culture had to develop a strategy how to work with two different groups at the same time: the Indian one, based on “family” long-term relationships and a British one, with the inflexible culture in respond to dynamic business approaches and ‘one-dimensional’, ‘mechanistic’ and a short-term mindset.

What would happen if the leader of the team is replaced by a Romanian business woman? Women in Colombia can be very often assigned to the positions of power, leading businesses and usually at the same professional level as men. Women-leaders are very proud of their professional achievements, experience and knowledge.

Women leaders in Romania are an interesting phenomenon. An increasing number of women are setting up successful businesses in Romania, overcoming barriers and building their credibility inside and outside their organizations. In Romania women entrepreneurship tends to become a force in the economic development. Women make 51, 2% of the Romanian population and cover 47.6% of the total active population. Consequently, women represent a readily available pool of potential entrepreneurs in diverse fields: trade, industry, tourism, advertising, IT and communication and real estate that each Romanian region can leverage to improve its economy.

Which cultural business values in Romania can be useful in our case?

Relationships are very important in the Romanian culture, in business a lot of time can be spent on building trust by talking about personal issues, interesting events, etc. They tend to use personal relationships to solve work problems. – Perfect match for our Romanian Leader!

In general Romanians are risk takers. And they will work hard to close a deal once everyone is on the same track. They are actually more open with foreigners than with each other. But even though they are skilled negotiators, they often show little knowledge of Western experiences, particularly with regard to speed, urgency or integrity. When a deal is concluded, everything should be put in writing, witnessed by decision makers and the competent experts. Plus an approval from the senior person in the organisation. – A bit heavy for the decision-making process in out project?!

Romanians are not punctual in general. They are comfortable with ambiguity where the Westerner wants final clarity. – Are the deadlines of our project in a risky situation to be postponed even further?

What is more important that, according to our readers’ opinions and experience, Romanian people have demonstrated willingness and ability to adapt and to learn.

Speaking about cross-cultural leadership in general, its challenges go beyond an occasional misunderstanding. They strike right at the core of whether or not we can successfully meet our performance objectives. This is where cultural intelligence (CQ) comes in. It helps us effectively adapt our leadership strategies when working outside our own culture.

Cultural intelligence is a set of capabilities and skills that enables leaders from outside a culture to interpret unfamiliar behaviours and situations as though they were insiders to that culture. Rather than expecting individuals to master all the norms, values and practices of the various cultures encountered, cultural intelligence helps leaders develop an overall perspective and repertoire that results in more effective leadership. For example, in culturally unfamiliar situations, sometimes other people’s behaviour and perspectives seem somewhat bizarre and random. Those with high CQ have the ability to encounter these types of confusing situations, think deeply about what’s happening (or not happening), and make appropriate adjustments to how they understand, relate, and lead there.

There are four capabilities that can also be thought toward developing our overall cultural intelligence:

The Drive: What’s your motivation for this assignment? Showing interest, confidence, and drive to adapt cross-culturally. The Drive is the leader’s level of interest, drive, and energy to adapt cross-culturally.

The Knowledge: What cultural information is needed to fulfil this task? Understanding cross-cultural issues and differences. Knowledge refers to the leader’s knowledge about culture and its role in shaping how business is conducted.

The Strategy: What’s your plan for this initiative? Strategizing and making sense of culturally diverse experiences. Strategy is the leader’s ability to strategize and plan when crossing cultures.

The Action: What behaviors do you need to adapt to do this effectively? Changing verbal and nonverbal actions appropriately when interacting cross-culturally.

What an exciting time to be involved in cross-cultural leadership! We have the opportunity to learn from people from a wide array of cultural backgrounds. The challenges of global leadership can be disorienting, and experience and intuition alone are not enough. CQ offers us a pathway toward enhancing our own effectiveness and competitive edge in multicultural and global contexts. And more importantly, it allows us to treat one another with a greater degree of respect and dignity.

We will continue to delve into aspects of the collaboration between Romanians and other nationalities – foreign investors who work in Romania. We’d love to hear from you about examples difficult situations having to do with cross-cultural communication, so feel free to write: [email protected]


Irina Budrina has a degree in Psychology from Moscow State University (Personality and Cross-cultural Psychology, Psychology of Advertising, PR and Marketing) and Institute of Psychoanalysis, Moscow. She holds a Master’s degree from EMBA program (Temple University Japan-USA). Irina has worked with INSEAD Global Leadership Center and professor Manfred Kets de Vries on Case-studies about Russian leaders. She is currently working and living in Bucharest, Romania. She is a doctorate student at ASE.

Romania Insider
Free Newsletters

Be up to speed with what’s happening in Romania! Choose from our 7 newsletters, covering the entire array of business, social, politics, and entertainment news

Subscribe now