The term ‘third culture kid’ is not universally well-known, but it is used to describe children who have been raised in a diverse cultural environment that it is different to one or both of their parents. This includes children who have been nurtured in a foreign country, while they tend to carry more than one passport and are associated with several nationalities by blood.
Naturally, these children grow up being immersed in any number of cultural environments, which in turn have a striking impact on the development of their identity, philosophy, and personality. It is largely considered to be a positive influence in a young person’s life, with a number of famous people having grown up as third culture kids. These include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and actress Julie Christie, who were raised in Kenya and India respectively and went on to achieve great things.
Interestingly, there have been a number of articles suggesting that third culture kids have immense potential as successful, global leaders. The work conducted in this field by Patricia Stokes is particularly insightful, as it underlines the unique experiences and qualities that shape the leadership potential of third culture kids. She identifies eight qualities displayed by these children that set them apart.
1. They have a cultural diversity that unites differences.
The world population is now estimated in excess of 7.3 million people and the nature of cultural identity is also evolving at a rapid pace. Developed nations such as the UK, with approximately 7.5 million citizens currently sharing a cross-cultural heritage, have an increasingly multi-cultural society. This creates a number of social challenges, as cultural differences breed variable expectations and misconceptions. Third culture children are therefore ideally placed to lead multi-cultural societies, as they have a greater understanding of these differences and practical experience that can enable them to inspire unity.
2. They are easy to identify with as leaders.
On a similar note, the cultural diversity of third culture kids makes them easier to identify with across a broader demographic of people. This has huge merit in multi-cultural communities, where those with a third culture background can share their experiences and unique insights to connect with individuals on a deeply personal level. So while all eyes were on the UK recently as an estimated 30 million votes were cast in the general election, the results of local government polling were even more fascinating due to ethnic split that exists within individual communities. While voters tended to elect candidates that shared their background in regions where one culture was dominant, mixed communities tended to select politicians with a more diverse cultural background.
3. They have the practical skills to communicate with people from various cultures.
By their very nature, third culture children tend to have advanced linguistic skills. Not only will they speak their parents’ language, for example, but they are also required to learn the verbiage and dialects of their adopted country. This can even inspire a thirst for knowledge that inspires them to learn more languages, as they embark on a course of higher education and their career. This translates into a practical leadership skill, as third culture kids find it easier to communicate with people of various nationalities and origins whether they are looking to mediate or interact with an international team of employees.
4. They have an innate understanding of remote communication and its platforms.
Not only can third culture kids interact in various languages and dialects, but they are also well-versed in contemporary communication techniques and platforms. With friends and relatives living across numerous continents, they are forced to use instant messenger and video call resources regularly in order to maintain contact while also reducing living costs. Modern communication tools such as Blackberry Messenger, Skype, and Viber play pivotal roles in driving global businesses and political movements, so those in positions of leadership must have knowledge of how to use them to their fullest potential.
5. They are well-suited to managing change.
No matter how or where you apply your leadership skills, one of the key requirements is that you are able to effectively manage change. This is something that comes naturally to third culture kids, who at some point in their infancy are forced to relocate and adapt to a new and entirely unfamiliar cultural environment. This creates a stronger and more robust mental focus, which enables individuals to cope better with change and empower others to do the same. As leaders, this demographic is able to empathise with the negative impacts of change and manage these in a way that helps those who are struggling.
6. They are constantly seeking knowledge and understanding.
In some respects, third culture kids are rootless. This is not necessarily a negative thing, however, as the lack of a fixed cultural identity tends to encourage curiosity and empowers individuals to seek out their own sense of belonging. As a result of this, third culture children are constantly seeking out knowledge and understanding, as they look to carve their own unique place in the world. This translates well into leadership, where those with the responsibility for others must embark on a path of relentless self-improvement and constant learning.
7. They have enhanced time management skills.
As a general rule, the relationship dynamics associated with third culture kids tends to evolve considerably throughout childhood. Not only are they likely to leave family behind in their parents’ homeland, for example, but they may also separate from close friends who have had a keen influence on their lives. They may even decide to return to their parent’s country of birth at some point during their childhood, which completes the cycle and leaves both friends and family members scattered around the world. Maintaining these relationships alongside factors such as education, work, and time zone variations can be challenging, although the experience leaves third culture kids with the type of improved time management and organisation skills that are central to good leadership.
8. They are likely to have grown up with a strong business background.
Children born to powerful parents in the worlds of business and commerce are among the most likely to become third culture kids. An estimated 63% of this demographic have also lived overseas for a period of 10 years or more, while the majority have also resided in more than two nations. As a result of this, third culture children grow up with an in-depth understanding of business and its demands, making them ideally equipped to evolve into a wide diversity of leadership roles during adulthood.
Featured photo credit: Skeeze – Pixabay via pixabay.com