Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Multiple Characteristics of Global Leaders

There are many multi-national companies around, but very few global companies; there are many international managers, but very few genuine global leaders today. 

According to one survey of senior executives from a prestigious industry bellwether, the majority of business executives believe their organizations need to develop global leadership capabilities, but less than ten percent think they are currently doing so very effectively. 

When looking for potential C-suite leaders, they are more likely to choose people who can lead successfully in an international business environment and who can effectively convey the values and culture of the organization. As firms reach across borders, global leadership capacity is surfacing more and more often as a binding constraint.

The business world we live in is in the digital paradigm shift. The global balance of economic power is shifting in a multi-polar world; the change from a “multinational” organization that adapts the operations of each country or regional unit for local needs to a “global” firm with standardized, but agile, and horizontally integrated technologies and processes; there are leaders from the twentieth century whose profiles are very, very different than what is required for a leader now in a hyperconnected, global, uncertain and interdependent digital world with more distributed, multicultural, and different business models and an incredible pace of information growth and innovation demand.

So the leadership debate is not only about the seven shifts needed from managers to become leaders but expands into a broader spectrum: the seven shifts from regional managers to become global leaders.

1. From Tactician to Strategist with Global Mindset 

There are many multi-nationals, but few global companies; even fewer authentic global leaders. We need global leaders at CEO, CIO, and all senior leadership positions for dealing with the level of complexity to leverage its fundamental forces and have a positive impact on hyper-connected, hyper-complex and interdependent global economy.

Global Mindset: It is a worldview that looks at problems or issues in such a way that a solution emerges through a collaborative multicultural approach involving global psychological capital, intellectual capital, and global social capital. Being “Global” involves a personal intention to focus on being global. Companies don’t exist in silos but within systems, especially global ones. Being global is about crossing not just borders but also cultural divides between business, government, and social sectors. How to cultivate a global mindset? Global experience does contribute to shaping it, however, it is required, but is not sufficient for the development of an accurate global mindset. From leadership scholars and practitioners, there are:

  • Three core competencies: Self-awareness, engagement in personal transformation, and inquisitiveness;
  • Seven mental characteristics: Optimism, self-regulation, social judgment skills, empathy, motivation to work in an international environment, cognitive skills, and acceptance of complexity and its contradictions;
  • Three behavioral competencies: social skills, networking skills, and multicultural knowledge.

2. From Specialist to Generalist with “Globality” 

The global executives are business generalist demand more comprehensive skills in leadership, strategic thinking, relationship building and management, crisis management and public relations in addition to technology, finance, sales & marketing, HR; and the common characteristics of successful global leaders fall into the soft-skills bucket, such as "emotional intelligence," "listening," and "authenticity." Thus, global leaders should have “globality” (global capabilities). 

Global Capability: The qualities and competencies of global leaders include such as tolerance of ambiguity, cultural flexibility, learning agility, handling complexity, communicating virtually, and working across cultures. Besides being brilliant and master the functional skills, he or she must be a strong communicator and a strategic thinker, and know how to collaborate with stakeholders of all stripes. However, when it comes to leadership substance & style, it turns out that many executives of global corporations aren't so global leaders after all. Organizations must develop the capability to deal with global talent issues more thoroughly.

3. From Analyst to Integrator (synthesist) with Global Culture Empathy 

For C-Level leaders in global organizations, one single characteristic — "sensitivity to culture" (so-called "cultural empathy") — ranks at the very top of the requirement list. This rare quality can't be "taught," or injected simply by working in an overseas office.  Surely, learning another language sharpens cognitive abilities, and speaking a foreign language fluently notices how each language shifts one's consciousness and improve one’s transcultural capabilities. However, shaping a global mindset goes beyond language, because culture is much deeper than custom, or a language. Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from another. Cultural behavior is the end product of collected wisdom, filtered and passed down through hundreds of generations as shared core beliefs, values, assumptions, notions, and persistent action pattern.

Global Culture Empathy: It requires a degree of egolessness because you have to surrender the notion that your country or language or point of view is best. Cultural empathy means that you have to not just see through the eyes of someone who is different, but you have to think through that person's brain. It's a mindset shift. True cultural empathy springs from personality, early nurturing, curiosity, and appreciation of diversity or thought and color of the character.

4. From Bricklayer to Architect with Global-dimensional Design & Innovation 

The global organization blueprint is too important to be assigned only to specialist functions and regulated by specialist processes, however, those well-designed functions and processes by taking a holistic approach are needed, one in which every part of an organization and every individual within it is connected and animated by the need to foster the global digital orchestration.

Global-dimensional enterprise design: From a non-technology, enterprise architectural perspective, multinationals should consider diversity issues that range from factors related to their industry, operating geographies, culture, pace of growth and growth strategy, other elements of their business strategy (including all talent management aspects), sophistication of talent management practices, how people work and manage other people, workforce demographics, and composition.

The world-class innovation to connect global dots: On the navigation dimension—to have more antennae focused on the trends and what’s going on in the world. And what group will have more diversity—the conceptual diversity with the diversity of opinion, independent thinking, decentralization, and aggregation? It takes world-class leaders who can connect global dots to both inspire and nurture the evolution of businesses that walk the talk when it comes to innovation. Businesses that use inventiveness as a basis for achieving the kind of transformative change that propels global growth.

5. From Problem Solver to Global Agenda Setter with Global Leadership Effectiveness 

A global leader’s ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ and ‘cultural flexibility’ have a strong correlation with global leadership effectiveness.

Global Leadership Effectiveness: An effective global leader can lead effectively in a global business environment; can articulate and embody the diverse values and culture of the organization; can respect colleagues and reports with empathy; can engage effectively with multiple internal and external stakeholders, customers and partners worldwide; can make decisions by leveraging variable factors; can create new capability to expand global business growth; can create working environment where global team and virtual team can thrive.

High level of culture flexibility: There’s leadership study considers this topic in a more sophisticated way by examining whether the combined effect of personality characteristics and cross-cultural experiences predict a leader’s effectiveness as a global leader. In this context, a global leader is defined as a leader who interacts with external clients from other countries, develops strategic business plans on a worldwide basis, and manages a global budget and foreign suppliers or vendors. Self-and organization-initiated cultural experiences contributed to global leadership effectiveness, but self-initiated experiences had a more meaningful benefit to leaders. Simply put, to be effective, global leaders need high levels of both cultural flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity, and low levels of ethnocentrism required in jobs with complex international and multicultural responsibilities.

6. From Warrior to Diplomat with Global Cognizance 

There’s an interesting research on a thinking skill called Cultural Metacognition, which simply means thinking about thinking; in this context, thinking about your cultural assumptions. If you can gain awareness of your assumptions, you can build trust and take your team beyond cooperating on a task to truly creative collaboration.

Global Cognizance, Global Insight, and Foresight: Develop insight and foresight requires holistic thinking and forecasting capability, without such capabilities, companies can fail to increase value and competitive edge in a global economy. The global leaders also need insight into the capabilities and expertise inherent in the talent they have now, more critically, they need the foresight to seek out the potential and capabilities they’ll need for the future development, the well-blended insight, and foresight can drive competitive value and global growth. An authentic global leader is a diplomat with global cognizance:

  • Navigation capacities: It is important in a more volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and globally distributed world as you need a directional guide. Also, you are scanning the external environment and making sure that you’re seeing signals, patterns, and trends that are going to have an impact on your company’s ability to continue to thrive and grow.
  • Capacity-to-empathize: It has to do with reaching people who differ from you and connecting to them not through the role hierarchy so much as through influence so that you can act on a common purpose together.
  • Self-awareness and self-correctness: if you have a combination of self-awareness and the awareness of the organizations, and then, you have the courage to be able to step into something that’s unfamiliar and outside their comfort zone.
  • A win-win proposition: There’s a transparency in the digital era of the twenty-first century, it’s a global ecosystem of stakeholders that is going to determine whether or not your company or your organization can thrive.

7. From Talent Manager to Global Talent Master to lead Global Mobility 

High performance can be achieved and sustained by building the right set of competencies in the workforce and aligning and deploying these most effectively.

Global Mobility: The ability of global leaders to manage their global talent efficiently will mark the difference between success and failure. The need to develop well-rounded leaders of the future, with a truly international perspective, the recognition that an organization can benefit from a twoway transfer of knowledge, skills, and experience. Every market is a fertile ground for new ideas. But also the balance of global and local need is the extent to which they allow organizations to pursue the optimal mix of local operating preferences and nuances along with established global standards.

An early survey by the Corporate Executive Board showed that more than half organizations were experiencing a leadership shortage, it is a “paradigm shift,” a fundamental change in thinking is required to tackle the talent shortfall, and it’s strategic imperative to develop new capabilities for managing a global supply chain, leadership development, workforce planning, strategy alignment, and workforce diversity capabilities.  

In summary, global leaders are both nature and nurtured, cross-cultural competencies are also both created and shaped, and global leaders’ global influence is based on the value that you bring and the values that you have. Such seven characteristics: the global mindset, globality, global cultural empathy, global leadership effectiveness, global design & innovation, global cognizance, global mobility can become the key leadership differentiators in the 21st century.


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Reflection is critical to becoming a leader. The ability to honestly evaluate your own actions, decisions and behaviours and acknowledge external feedback is the key to moving from leadership education to being a leader.

Leadership in the UK

Way too many lists and lingo that don't really teach anything. How many catch phrases can we stuff in to a paragraph?

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