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Intercultural Leadership

Portrait of Keiko Funahashi
Development Director
Nikkei Place Foundation

Key Highlights

  1. Journey with Keiko Funahashi, the Director of Development at the Nikkei Place Foundation, as she navigates the intricate cultural complexities within her organization. How does being both a minority and part of the dominant culture shape her understanding of effective intercultural leadership?

  2. Discover how Funahashi's increasing self-awareness and reflection of cultural assumptions have led to a more inclusive working environment. What role does Erin Meyer's "The Culture Map" play in her approach towards the subtle differences in work cultures?

  3. Explore how Funahashi leverages the diversity of the Japanese Canadian community to improve organizational performance. How does she embrace cultural differences and foster understanding in her role at the Nikkei Place Foundation, and what impact does this have on communities at large?


The importance of intercultural leadership in today's globalized society cannot be overstated. Effective leaders foster strong relationships with colleagues, partnering organizations, and the community at large. Keiko Funahashi, the Director of Development at the Nikkei Place Foundation, exemplifies these qualities, skillfully navigating cultural differences within her organization and beyond.

At the recent annual Building Organizational and Sector Sustainability (BOSS) Conference by Vantage Point, Keiko had the opportunity to present her experiences in a session titled "Inside a BIPOC-Led Nonprofit Organization." The presentation focused on her journey as a Japanese Canadian, leading a charity called Tonari Gumi and working with the Japanese Canadian community.

Navigating Dual Cultural Identity

Navigating the cultural complexities of being both a minority and part of the dominant culture in different settings has been a humbling experience for Keiko, teaching her the importance of self-awareness, sensitivity, and effective communication to foster a more inclusive working environment.

One of the key takeaways from her presentation was the realization that cultural differences in the workplace are not only about food, religion, or customs but also about work styles and preferences. For example, the Japanese approach to decision-making and planning tends to be more deliberate and thorough, while the Canadian approach is more flexible and adaptive.

To navigate these differences effectively, Keiko had to become more self-aware and reflective of her own cultural assumptions. This awareness enabled Keiko to initiate conversations with her colleagues and find a middle ground that respected everyone's preferences and work styles. A valuable resource that helped her in this process was "The Culture Map" by Erin Meyer, which provided insights into the subtle differences in work culture between countries.

Harnessing the Power of Diversity

It is essential to recognize that cultural assumptions can be both visible and "sneaky." Visible cultural differences, like shaking hands or bowing, can be easily adopted. However, the more subtle cultural nuances in the workplace require deeper understanding, reflection, and communication. It is about finding a balance that allows for peaceful coexistence and collaboration, with everyone working towards common goals.

The Japanese Canadian community's diversity offers unique challenges and opportunities for intercultural leadership. By embracing differences and fostering understanding, leaders like Keiko can harness the power of diversity to improve organizational performance.
The Nikkei Place Foundation serves as an exemplary model of an organization that embodies this. As it continues to bridge cultural gaps and promote understanding through various programs, the foundation is poised to make an even more significant impact on communities near and far.

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