Leadership in a Diverse Culture

By Dave Estrella

Updated Over a Week Ago

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Toronto is home to 169 different cultures as it hosts people from different parts of the world. A recent survey from Statistics Canada shows that there are 250 ethnicities who speak 170 different languages in the Toronto area. As a matter of fact, RypeApp considered Toronto the most multicultural city in the world in 2020.

In 2015, I had the opportunity to work with 191 Toronto-based immigrants from over 40 national cultures who worked as Site supers, Estimators, Coordinators, Project Managers, Engineers, and Architects in a construction project to study the effects of immigrants’ national culture and their leadership style.

Using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, I grouped individual responses and found out that individual national cultures diminish over time. The construction professionals assimilated into the local culture.

There is a correlation between the cultural dimensions, as described by Hofstede, and the leadership and communication behavior of an individual. However, Canadians are generally a tolerant society.

The Construction Industry professionals would set aside their cultural differences to complete the project on time, on budget, and with acceptable quality. A culture of compromise and understanding between those who are born and Canada and those immigrants.

There are four leadership styles based on authority – Delegating, Supporting, Coaching, and Directing. Supporting as a leadership style is the most common among those interviewed. Construction professionals prefer collaboration while leading by example.

Honesty is the most important leadership quality among those interviewed. This is followed by delegation, trust, communication, loyalty, respect, and integrity.

Open and honest communication, whether it is written or verbal, is the key to a project team’s success. Body language seems to be an important part of communication with all Construction professionals. Lastly, a good leader should accept criticism in order to build good relationships among his or her peers.

Toronto – A Multicultural City

Indeed, Toronto is a multicultural city. The plurality of races speaks of the many benefits coming from the diverse experiences and expertise of these immigrants.  This includes increased productivity, and better employee engagement, among others.

However, there are still many challenges in the workplace. Languages and communication as brought by the different cultures are just a few of them. Understanding each other’s perspectives can bring out the best to every project team.

Having said that, project teams need inclusive leadership to be effective. Leaders need to be good listeners, patient, understanding, genuine, and people-oriented. Anything, on the contrary, will just be a recipe for disaster.

The Super Team

A super team is not created overnight. Superteams, just like the name implies, are teams with extraordinary abilities. What a regular team can achieve in a week, a super team can achieve the same in days.

In order to build a super team, we need to have a super leader who can make ordinary people achieve extraordinary results by keeping them engaged to beat any expectations. This leader should constantly encourage the project team to be better than before and fire up their curiosity.

Qualities of a Good Leader

There are people who are natural-born leaders. However, we can make a leader with proper coaching and training. Leadership skills can be learned with constant practice and honest feedback from their peers. The key is honest feedback, not just any feedback.

Good leaders are charismatic. They use natural charm to persuade conviction and commitment among their subordinates. It is almost their second nature. Also, good leaders should have empathy. They consider the feelings of their subordinates in all their actions. Good leaders have a good work-life balance, diplomatic, and are easily approachable.


It is quite a challenge to be a leader in a diverse culture. We need to have a good understanding and acceptance of all our cultural differences. We need to accept and complement each other’s weaknesses, imperfections, mental capacity, physical ability, and inherent skills to make a strong team. Although there are natural leaders, it is very comforting to know that we can all be leaders if properly trained and coached.

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Dave Estrella
Dave Estrella
Dave Estrella, P.Eng. is a Toronto based Construction Professional. He has a Masteral Degree in International Construction Management from the University of Bath, England and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Mapua University, Manila, Philippines. He is a registered Civil Engineer in the Philippines and a Professional Engineer in the Province of Ontario, Canada.
  • Norma D. Rivera says:

    This is an outstanding post that’s filled with so many useful nuggets. Thank you for being so detailed on Leadership in a Diverse Culture.

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