Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the contributors are theirs.
The qualities of a good leader include honesty, reliability, effective communication, humility, perseverance and strategic thinking. Whether you’re the CEO of a global tech company or the first-time founder of a small business, these traits are essential to being a successful business leader. As a Chinese American born to Taiwanese parents, I started immersing myself in other countries at an early age. In addition to traveling to 100 countries, I have also lived in eight on four continents, which has allowed me not only to experience the daily lifestyles of other cultures, but also to learn languages. Since I moved to Germany five years ago, I have acquired a good command of German, my sixth language.
While understanding multiple languages is helpful when traveling and conversing with people outside of your “bubble”, it has many other benefits. As CEO, my knowledge of other languages led to an increased level of success. Running a business requires a certain level of understanding in many different aspects, and learning several languages can help you improve your leadership skills in three important areas.
Related: Why All Entrepreneurs Should Learn a Foreign Language
1. Effective communication and empathy
The tone in which someone speaks usually gives a general idea of their emotion towards the subject or person. An effective leader is someone who is open to the ways others communicate, whether employees or customers, and knows how to match a response.
Great leaders are also able to manage across cultures. Having knowledge of the background of many cultures helps to understand the cultural context – being aware of a culture’s history and major events changes the way things are discussed. History and context are important and can provide a better understanding of cultural nuances.
Understanding a language also allows you to better understand the cultural quotient (CQ) where those around you come from. If you are able to understand someone beyond their words, it allows you to empathize and communicate on a much deeper and more impactful level.
2. Perseverance above all
Personal growth has been a big part of my life – I learned to step out of my comfort zone, and I have my immigrant parents, who didn’t speak English when they arrived in America, for that. They taught me humility, focus and determination, all of which I took with me, whether it was learning six languages or training to compete in the International Natural Olympia as a bodybuilder at the age of 40.
Persevering through tough times, no matter how difficult, is something leaders need to place great emphasis on. It sets an example that can encourage someone else to continue and can ultimately lead to increased morale and better business results.
Related: Why Your Success Depends On Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone
3. Challenge yourself
Another aspect of being an effective leader is to challenge yourself. Living in eight countries on four continents has allowed me to see an incredible amount of interaction and allowed me to communicate with others in ways other than language. Having a minimum knowledge of a country’s language before moving there was a challenge that I appreciated. I pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone and tap into other means of communication, including coming to terms with the emotion someone is portraying while speaking. It taught me many problem-solving tactics – whether it was using hand signals to ask for directions or using words I knew to try to convey a sentence – I had to do everything I needed to adapt to the situation.
It also proved invaluable in the workspace. If there is a crisis, I find the best way to deal with it. If a deadline is missed, I look at other options. Being challenged and pushed outside of your comfort zone has so many more benefits than you could ever imagine, and these are all things you can take with you into different aspects of life.
Effective leaders come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life. Personal experience plays such an important role when it comes to how leaders handle challenges and expectations. I am so grateful to have met people, from all over the world, who have taught me such valuable lessons that I use as a leader in the workplace and beyond.
Related: Babbel Makes Learning a New Language Easier