Dr. Patricia Stokke’s life has not always been about leading and teaching others to embrace their international experiences and develop their global leadership skills. There was a time when Patricia felt uncomfortable with her own identity and like many children with a multi-cultural upbringing, struggled to find a place she felt she fit in and could call ”home.”
"It has been such an important discovery and journey to normalize my life experience, who I am and realize why I have had over the years this feeling of being off and ’the other’ and not fitting in and not feeling accepted in many ways."
It was not until many years later that she realized the impact of living abroad in Japan and in several other US locations as a child. Growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) equipped her with a different skill set for survival that was far different from those with a mono-cultural upbringing.
Being a dental hygienist was just one of the many jobs and internships she explored before continuing on to her careers in leadership development and higher education. One of the places she interned at during her undergraduate studies was at George Simon's International in California.
"What is interesting to me, is that, you know, meeting George in the swimming pool is just a happenstance. He happened to have a business of cultural diversity consulting. Little did I know that would become a thread in my career and life."
It was not planned, but a coincidence that she met the owner of diversophy® in a water aerobics class. At the time, a beta product was evolving which addressed the need to connect people across boundaries. The team was putting together an engaging and fun way to learn about cultural diversity and help people gain an understanding of and become comfortable with their differences.
Working with George, she not only began to weave a thread for her future career, she also started acknowledging some of the intercultural skills she acquired in her international upbringing. Working in a multicultural team, organizing and implementing workshops and assisting in diversity and intercultural training, are just a few of the experiences she had in her internship at George Simons International.
In the interview, Dr. Stokke also discussed the variations we find in our own family members and how we do not need to travel thousands of miles away to find differences. Once we open up to understanding those who are different from us, we begin developing a global perspective. Interestingly, an international mindset is necessary not only in the global workforce but in the local community as well.
"Relationships of any kind can be a challenge and the conflicts often arise out of differences in the way that we think about the world and the differences in the way we approach things and relate to one another. More often the conflict is not that I don’t like you, or that I think you’re weird, but comes from the fact that you having a different way of thinking about and doing something."
Global leadership and diverse talent are needed to broaden both local and global perspectives. Dr. Stokke has been combining the Global Mindset Inventory[i] with the interviewing she performs in her research as she explores what contributes to making effective global leaders, the development of an international mindset, and the experiences of TCKs.
You can find her book here:
Her research indicates that TCKs have a head start on the special skills and qualities needed to become global leaders. Yet their experiences are often ignored and not recognized as valuable.
Next on her agenda is trying to find solutions to the big question affecting the international markets and their workers:
"How can we make this concept of global upbringing something that is understandable to others so they can recognize and value it?"
Patricia continues to broaden perspectives both as a professor in a local California College and in the global classroom. She aims to continue her writing, presenting and consulting with companies, helping them to understand this topic and better prepare them for when expatriates return.
Whoever you are, whatever your background, know that you are unique, and that your unique experience gives you something important to offer to the world. Live who you are so that you can fulfill your life’s purpose and “use your difference to make a difference” [ii].
We do not need to have the same upbringing to have a shared vision of the world. Too many people go through life feeling as if they have never had a place to fit in and a hole in the heart where “home” is supposed to be.
“And I realized, I have found my people... they are international people.”
Whether you had a monocultural or multicultural upbringing does not matter. What matters is recognizing the unique skills that come from your life experience. Embracing and developing those in yourself and helping others to find their own. It is time to value and empower those with the skills we need to solve these global problems, develop both locally and globally and teach the future leaders of tomorrow.