Culturally Diverse Leadership with Karen Loon

Learning from Board Member and Author Karen Loon  

We will learn more about the important topic of culturally diverse leadership from former audit partner, board director, researcher and author Karen Loon.

Karen Loon is a Non-Executive Board Director and former audit partner at PwC. She served some of the leading global banks, and has been responsible for several diversity initiatives. She has a research interest in identity work and organizational change from INSEAD, and she has researched and written a book named “Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations” .

Karen is passionate about exploring identity, diversity, leadership and organizational change.

The episode is recorded as both an Audio and Video Podcast. It focuses on Karen’s journey, insights from her book, and approaches she finds useful for top companies, leaders, and boards.

So what I would say for, particularly for directors, is we have a role to make sure that we balance the performance expectations of our people, with the people side. But also to try and really make sure that we understand how our people feel. Because how our people feel will impact how they behave.” – Karen Loon

Welcome to listen and learn about

  • About Karen Loon and how it all started
  • Why Karen wrote the book
  • About identity, including social and personal
  • How companies’ focus on diversity has changed
  • What the Bamboo Ceiling means
  • Culturally diverse leaders
  • How Boards and leaders need to act
  • Karen’s recommendations
  • Karen as a furniture


Culturally Diverse Leadership with Karen Loon by Exploring Leaders by Digoshen

Non-Executive Board Director, Researcher, Author and Advisor Karen Loon. Karen will share her story, her own experience and her research about Culturally Diverse Leadership. A corresponding Blogpost can be found on Digoshen.Com/blog







Culturally Diverse Leadership with Karen Loon

Non-Executive Board Director, Researcher, Author and Advisor Karen Loon. Karen will share her story, her own experience and her research about Culturally Diverse Leadership. More can be found in a corresponding blogpost at












Culturally Diverse Leadership

Cultural diversity is a quality of being different from those in the majority. It generally refers to people’s race or ethnicity.

Leadership plays a key role in managing cultural diversity in organizations. Leaders need to be aware of the different cultures represented within the organization, be representative of the cultures and make sure that everyone feels valued and respected. They also need to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives.

Karen has experienced herself first-hand, being ethnically an Asian-Australian leader, working in Singapore and internationally. As a former PwC partner, she led several diversity initiatives.  She continued to research the topic with many culturally diverse leaders and has identified some key insights with learnings for both individual leaders as well as organizations.

The book Karen has written is divided into three sections;

  • The first section is called “Laying the Foundation,” where Karen explores the influence of a person’s identity and its formation, as well as the current state of culturally diverse leadership in organizations.
  • The second section is named “Lessons from those who smashed the bamboo ceiling”. Here Karen explores how family ties shape culturally diverse leaders, what they do to win in the workplace, how they manage their career progress, and how different patterns of life impact career experiences.
  • The third section is named “A Roadmap for Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations”. In this section, Karen outlines roadmaps with hints and tips for how leaders can supercharge their careers, as well as how organizations can increase cultural diversity in their leadership and concludes with the steps we must all take.


Additional insights on Culturally Diverse Leadership

According to a research by Bain “The Fabric of belonging” they identified that there are many benefits to a diverse workforce and leadership team, as employees who feel more included are more likely to promote their workplace.

They also found that improving both diversity and inclusion increases the ability to innovate as well as to challenge the status quo

In a study by BCG published in HBR they found that diverse companies had 19% higher innovation revenue.

In the latest report by Gallup on State of the Global Workforce, they identified that business units with engaged workers had 23 % higher profits, lower absenteeism, turnover and accidents, as well as higher customer loyalty.

Part of our culture base of acting is learnt throughout our lifetime, where much of it is acquired in early childhood as a person is most susceptible to learning and assimilation. Social science professor Hofstaede called culture the software of our mind.

It is what we got fed with our mother’s milk and the porridge that our dad gave us. … If you’re part of a society, you’re like one drop in the Mississippi River. You may decide to go another way, but that doesn’t make the river change. So we’re all constraining one another through our collective culture.” – Hofstaede

Professor Erin Meier of INSEAD has also researched culture and shared her research in her book “Culture Map”, where she points out the importance of understanding different culture backgrounds in order to be able to proactively handle it. Prof Meyer shares 8 scales where different cultures map differently incl communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, trusting, deciding, disagreeing, scheduling.


There is a need for culturally diverse leadership in organizations in order to change the way they operate. This type of leadership allows for different perspectives to be brought to the table and helps to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable and respected.

There are insights from successful leaders and organizations that we can all learn from.

Learn More


About Karen Loon


Karen Loon at LinkedIn

Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations (Book)

Board Diversity – Implications and Discussion Blogpost article by Karen Loon

Karen Loon Website


Other information and inspiration


On culturally diverse leadership

The Fabric of belonging by Bain

How and Where Diversity drive financial Performance by BCG

State of the Global Workforce, by Gallup

Embracing Diversity with a Growth Mindset by INSEAD

Culture the Software of the Mind by Irving Wladawsky Berger

Navigating the cultural minefield by Erin Meyer

From Earlier Podcast Interviews

Around the world with Erik Nordling

How coaching benefits board work with Helen Wiseman

Five Leadership Literacies needed in the Digital Age of Disruption

This blog post was originally shared at the blog of Digoshen,  and the blog of the Digoshen founder

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