3 Reasons Why Bilingual Skills Set You Apart as a Leader

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More than 40% of the Fortune 500 companies operating in 2010 were founded by immigrants or their children, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy — including some of the most well-known brands, from Apple and IBM to Disney and McDonald’s. The companies noted had combined revenues of $4.2 trillion — more than the GDP of most countries.

The ability to embrace cultural perspectives is absolutely critical to the way we view the world. Speaking multiple languages ​​and even using English as a secondary language is not a setback, it is your secret weapon. Sure, I feel a little frustrated when I can’t conjure up the exact word I am thinking in Finnish to English, but the perseverance, grace and creativity allow me to effectively communicate and lead by myself all the same.

It’s one of your superpowers. If you speak a widely spoken language, like Spanish, it’s a more easily utilized asset. For me speaking Finnish, early on in my career was a unique opportunity for me to build my own business with much greater clarity and a deep sense of passion. I was able to build relationships and improve the way families were shaping palates of generations to come.

Studies have shown that bilingual leaders carry great benefits for leading a company. They are better at multitasking and prioritizing, and they carry an advantage to the business world because these individuals carry an inherent cultural knowledge that positively influences building community and the way you network and develop relationships.

Whether you’re learning a second language as a personal skill or you’re an immigrant entrepreneur that speaks your native language, here are three reasons why having bilingual skills can be a critical asset and entrepreneurial differentiator to leading your company.

Related: 5 Studies Prove Bilinguals Benefit Employers in More Ways Than One

1. You easily recognize different perspectives and embrace the juxtaposition

American culture often romanticizes these values ​​of working hard and asking for nothing in return. My parents were very open about their careers and invested in us to be as individualistic as we possibly could be. They encourage us to speak another language — whether it was English or something else — but taught us to never forget where we came from. They put emphasis on the value of the community and individual progress.

When founding Tiny Organics, my co-founder and I initially went through a six-week discovery period. We knew that we wanted to build something to make parents’ lives easier, and started by throwing a lot of initial ideas at the wall. One of the initial ideas for Tiny Organics was a spin on the Finnish Baby Box, a cardboard box that every parent gets from the Finnish government with everything you need for the baby’s first year, and it has proven to lower once-high infant mortality rates . I’ve always wanted to bring this invention to the US and have seen firsthand the impact it had back home. Being Finnish has impacted every facet of my life; it’s made me who I am.

It wasn’t until we conducted a focus group of 10-15 moms to ask about what they were feeding their children that we realized the lack of healthy finger foods in the market, thus starting the idea for Tiny Organics. It wasn’t a straight clear path coming to this point. It required us to pull from personal experience, dial into our individual perspectives, and audience communicate and listen to our target to give them something they actually want and would use — and much of this came down directly to my upbringing in Finland and the culture there .

Related: These 5 Global Business Leaders Speak Multiple Languages. Should You?

2. You understand language’s roles in leadership

One of the most important things you need to learn as a leader and authority figure in your company is how exactly to communicate. From your employees to your co-founder, to your customers, to your investors — being able to effectively communicate with these groups is essential to the success of your business.

It’s important for founders to understand the significance of their language and how it impacts their communication with these parties. Are you communicating in the most effective and efficient way? Are these people receptive to your message? If not, what can you do to change that? Are my words reflective of the culture and environment I want to build? Is my message/question clear and well-addressed? Do others feel comfortable communicating back with me?

Language is your most important tool, and lucky for people like us, we have multiple! Every language and culture has its unique characteristics, and while some people might think it’s a hindrance and creates a language barrier when working in the US, I think it’s our best asset. Speaking English as a second language gives you double the communication experience to pull from when formulating your own, unique communicative style as a leader.

Related: Multilingual Support: Speak Your Customer’s Language

3. You think creatively and differently

Speaking multiple languages ​​allowed me to be more creative and to think differently — which in business is one of the most important ways to approach problem-solving. It helped me empathize with other people’s perspectives and build a thriving community of thousands of customers. Being bilingual allows you to view the world through a different lens and in so many ways this approach is a huge advantage to women. By speaking multiple languages, we are able to change our thought processes and have a unique perspective on creating solutions that are perhaps often overlooked.

Our brains are thinking and operating in a way that someone who only speaks English doesn’t. And when working in a market where your differentiators can make or break a business, having this kind of unique perspective to pull from and reference means everything. Use this to your advantage — think outside of the box when you’re building a business, pitching to investors and marketing to customers. Your brain is running differently, so build differently.

Speaking multiple languages ​​allowed me to be more creative and to think differently — which in business is one of the most important ways to approach problem-solving. It helped me empathize with other people’s perspectives and build a thriving community of thousands of customers. Being bilingual allows you to view the world through a different lens and in so many ways this approach is a huge advantage to women. By speaking multiple languages, we are able to change our thought processes and have a unique perspective on creating solutions that are perhaps often overlooked.

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