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University of Exeter Business School

Leading in International Contexts

Module titleLeading in International Contexts
Module codeBEM2035
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Paul O'Keefe (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

To work, lead, and thrive in today’s diverse and globalised business environment, it is more vital than ever for students to have ample and robust opportunities to expand their international horizons. The module “Leading in International Contexts” is designed to provide students with the knowledge, analytical capabilities, and (soft) skills needed to practice leadership in modern, international organisations.

After introducing systematic ways of understanding cultures, we will examine how national cultures influence team, managerial, and organisational performance. We will then explore the nature of leadership in terms of how individuals influence others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it and how they facilitate individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives. The module will highlight theory and research that accounts for how leaders acquire and exercise social influence in a manner that contributes to their credibility and the motivation of their followers across cultures. We will reflect on individual and cultural differences in leader behaviour and examine in what instances situations determine the salience of these differences. We will explore the implications of diverging and converging cultural norms in the workplace, and address how leaders might act responsibly and effectively to resolve challenges in emerging and developed economies.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Today’s graduates are expected to thrive in a global business environment. To be a global leader, you need to understand how to lead a global team and how to navigate tensions and opportunities that emerge as you work with others from different cultures, across international markets, and with different working practices. 

This module will develop your understanding of how leaders effectively function in a modern multinational, helping you develop sensitivity to the strategic and operational leadership challenges that come from operating at this scale and across diversified markets.

To reach those aims, the emphasis of the course will be on application of theory, comparing, and contrasting ideas. Although this module requires understanding of theoretical concepts, it is an experiential module which requires students to reflect on their own cultural identities, beliefs and perceptions, and at times to share these reflections with their fellow students.

By design, this is a very independent course and a personal journey of exploration. While the lecturer will introduce you to the key topics which you will also explore together in the small groups, you must read the assigned articles for deeper context and understanding, apply the topics/readings and critically reflect on how they relate to you and your cultural/global leadership capacities, as well as clearly convey this knowledge and development in your final, cumulative portfolio. Thus, this is likely a different style of module and assessment than your previous courses.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. articulate the leadership/management implications of working in a global business environment;
  • 2. apply a range of theories on cross-cultural management to address leadership challenges and opportunities.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. discuss different theories of culture to categorise, compare, and contrast cultures;
  • 4. recommend responsible solutions to leadership challenges which are sensitive to an international business context.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. think reflectively about of one’s own (and others') culture(s), behaviours and beliefs;
  • 6. apply (soft) skills and strategies that will enable you to be effective intercultural negotiator, collaborator, and communicator–or in other words, an effective leader;
  • 7. select and synthesize material from a range of sources (e.g., academic and practitioner) to support key ideas and recommendations;
  • 8. analyse, communicate, and present ideas, principles, and evidence that support a reasoned and consistent argument.

Syllabus plan

Topics discussed on the module include (not exclusively):

  • Analytical frameworks of cross-cultural comparisons
  • Cultural cohesion
  • Prejudice and stereotypes
  • Working in multi-cultural, global teams
  • Cross-cultural communication & negotiation
  • Implicit Leadership Theories
  • Leadership adaptability
  • Global issues (e.g. #MeToo, BLM and COVID-19)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity11Lectures (11 x 1 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Seminars (11 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study26Preparatory reading before taught sessions
Guided Independent Study90Preparation and reading/writing for portfolio
Guided Independent Study12Completion of and reflection on self-development exercises

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar activities1 x hour seminar1-8Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio1003,000-3,300 words1-8Written, individual

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Portfolio (100%)Portfolio (3,000-3,300 words)1-8August/September Reassessment Period

Re-assessment notes

Re-assessment consists of an updated/improved submission of the original assessment.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Students will be expected to read peer-reviewed academic journal articles. Recommended journals include:

Academy of Management Review

Academy of Management Journal

Harvard Business Review

The Leadership Quarterly

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

International Business, Leadership, Management, Globalization, Culture, Multinationals, Soft Skills, Future of Work, Future of Leadership

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date