Intercultural Competence


Fantini (2006) defines intercultural competence as “a complex of abilities needed to perform effectively and appropriately when interacting with others who are linguistically and culturally different from oneself”. It involves the ability of an individual to function with others who are culturally and linguistically different. When colleges offer to students programs such as study abroad and foreign language, the students are exposed to the right environment where they can learn and develop their intercultural competencies. The attainment of such competencies enriches the individual, as well as help mold future leaders, educators and professionals who will be able to advance successful cooperation across different cultures. This paper defines cultural competence, its measurement, and the assessment of leadership behavior.

Measuring Intercultural Competence

While there may be numerous models of assessing intercultural competence, very few of them present knowledge on how to evaluate the concept they model. However, Bennett’s (1993) Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) is the model mostly used to explain intercultural development. Notably, the DMIS has an associated assessment known as the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). 

By definition, the IDI is a questionnaire consisting of statements on cultural attitudes, as well as cultural dissimilarity associated with five of the six stages stipulated in the DMIS. According to Hammer, Bennett, & Wiseman (2003), those taking the IDI have to respond to the statements and in return receive an all-inclusive score that puts them on a range from ethnocentrism to ethno relativism.  The model is usually used in studies that focus on intercultural development of college students although it is designed for measuring intercultural sensitivity.

According to Bennett (2003), numerous empirical evaluations have confirmed the fact that the IDI is a dependable measure of the DMIS. A study by Paige and colleagues employed the use of different statistical tests to evaluate the IDI. Moreover, it addressed the prospective confound of self-report questionnaires by contrasting IDI scores with measures on the Marlowe-Crown Social Desirability Scale. The Marlowe-Crown Social Desirability Scale assesses the possibility that a respondent is not answering questions with their original views, but rather responding in a more socially acceptable manner. According to Bennett (2003), the study found out that, higher scores on the IDI were related to numerous variables in the respondent’s background such as age, socializing with culturally different individuals, having friends who are culturally different, previous intercultural knowledge, and studying a foreign language. The finding reflects data obtained by the use of the IDI and other methods assessing how different experiences have an impact on college students.

Indirect Assessment Tools for Intercultural Competence

Researchers have also come up with scales for survey research such as the Intercultural Sensitivity Inventory (ISCI) and the Behavioral Assessment Scale for Intercultural Competence (BASIC). While the ISCI used responses on a self-report instrument to measure people’s abilities to interrelate or modify how they behave in cross-cultural situations, the BASIC was put to use by observers to assess people’s cross-cultural communication capability depending on their actions.

Behavioral Assessment Scale for Intercultural Competence

The BASIC was coined from Ruben’s pioneering achievement in behavioral approaches to intercultural competence. Ruben (1976) points out that, observers employed the use of 4- and 5- point Likert scales to measure individuals on each dimension including interaction posture, empathy, acceptance for ambiguity, display of respect, orientation to knowledge, interaction management, and role behavior that is self-oriented.

A study of the scales used by Ruben (1976) shows three clusters, which he describes as types of participants. The first, type I, reveals high acceptance for ambiguity, high levels of interaction management and high respect. It also showed base, personal knowledge. Ruben termed these participants as competent cross-cultural communicators. Type II participants were seen as a mixed, behavioral group that was capable of doing well in cross-cultural communication. They had somehow tolerated ambiguity, shown some respect, some amount of empathy, and a self-oriented role behavior that was low. Type III participants; on the other hand, were seen as individuals who might encounter difficulties when trying to communicate across different cultures. They had low group maintenance, low interaction management, low empathy; they were the opposites of type I.

Ruben and Kealey (1979) further expounded on the behavioral model to about nine dimensions. They divided self-oriented role behavior into three other dimensions that were distinct: individualistic roles, relational roles, and task-related roles. Thereafter, they analyzed assessments of two types of individuals, pre-deployment and one-year post-deployment, as well as their spouses that were abroad. Results pointed out that, three dimensions: empathy, relational role orientation, and orientation to knowledge, best predicted the culture shock they experienced. Moreover, two other dimensions, interaction management and display of respect, foresaw how participants did adjust to the culture around them. The two dimensions that correlated with the abilities of the individuals to perform well in the host culture were modest and individualistic role behavior that were task-related.

Intercultural Sensitivity Inventory (ICSI)

The ICSI was invented to assess the ability of an individual to modify behavior in ways that are appropriate when shifting between two different cultures. More specifically, it was used to compare the behavior between an individualistic culture (U.S.) against a collective one (Japan). The self-report instrument consisted of 46 questions placed on 7-point Likert scale. Bhawuk and Brislin (1992) involved two groups in the survey, graduate and MBA students residing in international doms. They also used the Marlow-Crowne Social Desirability scale to inspect the potential outcomes of social desirability. Correlations between the two scales were rather low, pointing to the fact that participant were not openly affected by the notion of social desirability when they were taking part in the whole process. Generally, the study found out that participants with three and above years of cross-cultural expertise showed a greater sense of intercultural sensitivity. However, there was no difference between the MBA and graduate students in the doms. Bhawuk and Brislin (1992) in their conclusion, found out that collectivism and individualism can be effective in estimating intercultural sensitivity.

The Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory (CCAI)

The CCAI has been effective in assessing the experience of studying abroad, the effects experiential training has on cross-cultural adaptability, as well as sensitivity training for students studying medicine. The scales used were created by Kelley and Meyers, who describe CCAI as a “training instrument designed to provide information to an individual about his or her potential for cross-cultural effectiveness”. The CCAI has four dimensions that are used to measure that ability of an individual to adjust to different cultures: personal autonomy, flexibility and openness, emotional resilience, and perceptual acuity. The total cross-cultural adaptability worked out by combining the responses to the above four dimensions. Studies that have used this scale have produced mixed results. Kitsantas and Meyers (2001) found different statistics between groups on study abroad program and non-study abroad ones. Before the study abroad program, there were few differences between the two groups. However, Majumdar et al., 1999; Williams, 2005; Zielinksi (2007), show that other three studies did not find general differences between the two groups’ performance on the CCAI. Williams and Majumdar findings only showed differences in perceptual acuity and emotional resistance.

The Intercultural Sensitivity Index (ISI)

Olson and Kroeger (2001) points out that to measure global intercultural sensitivity developed ISI. Its items represent the six stages of the DMIS, in addition to three other dimensions, of global competency. From their findings carried out with faculty members of the New Jersey City University, Olson and Kroeger argue that, those in denial and defense stages are less likely to complete or return such a survey, which in the end depresses the numbers seen on the lower end of their scale. Williams (2005) combined ISI with CCAI to review and contrast the intercultural communication skills of students on two occasions and these are before and after the programs of study abroad. Her findings showed that individuals who studied abroad had a positive increase on the ISI.

The Assessment of Intercultural Competence (AIC)

According to Fantini (2006), AIC was an approach developed for specific reasons. The Federation of the Experiment in International Living (FEIL) came up with the scale that would eventually play a part in the exploration and assessment of the intercultural competence outcomes. Fantini (2006) points out the definition of intercultural competence by FEIL as “a complex of abilities needed to perform effectively and appropriately when interacting with others who are linguistically and culturally different from oneself”. These recent assessment employs two-way procedures and hour-long interviews and was made up of seven sections as well as 211 items.

Assessing Leadership Behavior

There has been an increasing need for leaders to be individuals who can manage and effectively carry out cross-border international responsibilities. The recent emphasis placed on the measurement of intercultural competence had given birth to various new leadership assessment instruments. The instruments provide useful tools to give the necessary information.

Global Leadership Online

The instrument is inculcated in assessing the leadership strengths and weaknesses of any individual or corporation. The tools used indicate the attitude of an individual, as well as the ability to work worldwide. The first step requires one to complete online self and 360 assessment tools. A summary report is then generated that is inclusive of the overall score, gap analysis, as well as written comments. The second process then follows, which involves an individual interview that takes about three hours with a consultant.  The third step involves a meeting between an HR contact and the individual. The fourth step is optional, and it involves a post assessment that involves the GlobeSmart Assessment Profile.

Connective Leadership/ Achieving Styles Inventory (ASI)

This Connective Leadership Model is based on ASI, which stresses that leaders must engage and interact in a diverse world that is becoming interconnected. Individuals have to call upon Achieving Styles and the nine fundamental behavioral strategies to attain their goals. The three sets of Achieving Styles include instrumental, Direct, and Relational. Each set has three individual styles, which then add up to nine. Developed by the Connective Leadership Institute, there are four instruments meant to measure Leadership behavior. The first measures the ASI, the second measures the leadership behaviors that can be rewarded (OASI), the third evaluates a given task in terms of the AS that is paramount for success to be present (ASSEST). The final is a 360-feedback tool.


Many former researches on intercultural competencies have focused on individuals’ personalities, values, attitudes, and motives using open-ended interviews, surveys and self-report. According to Ruben (1989), these tools were used to explain the reasons behind; overseas failure, envisage overseas success, expand personnel selection strategies, and lastly, design, apply and assess the methodology used in sojourner training and preparation. Generally, existing tools developed to estimate intercultural competence are full of self-reports (surveys) that focus on many dimensions that include the overall framework of ICC. BASIC and IDI are the only exception to the above generalization.

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