Developing Global Leaders

Your company is expanding overseas, or maybe it is already there. But are your leaders ready to make the same transition?

Global leadership is an important topic for organizations and their employees who work cross-culturally. In some cases, a person is sent overseas because of expertise. However, that employee may not be fully prepared to transition into a culture that operates quite differently. In some cases, organizations are hiring or training qualified people to be effective global leaders. Whatever the approach, there is a skills gap between what is needed for local leadership and to be an effective global leader.

In order to grow into an international position, the leader requires entirely different skills. Any form of change can be difficult, and some are better at adapting than others, which makes preparation a decidedly individualistic process. The fundamentals, however, remain the same: peel away the layers of culture shock, prejudgments, and the unknown, and then create a greater understanding of the environment in which your employee will be operating.

To phrase this another way: How do we groom corporate leaders to feel at home anywhere in the world?

Five awareness factors and how they shape the global leader:

Situational Awareness: General safety awareness on the street. Understanding what is normal, learning your physical environment, and establishing a “Plan B” for multiple situations creates a greater sense of comfort and ease for the traveler.

Internal Awareness: The international leader must prepare for and be able to identify the internal reactions that accompany an overseas tour, e.g., complacency as well as the emotional dip that typically occurs around two months. Especially for the long-term traveler, having an awareness of what is going on internally can make or break day-to-day performance.

Global awareness: Know the political situation in the country, including the current and historical relationship between the host country and your own. What does your presence mean for the locals? How do they view your presence? Are you a former enemy, a trusted friend who broke a promise, the hero?

Cultural Awareness: Familiarity with manners, customs, and behaviors allows the global leader to place what they experience into cultural context. From a corporate standpoint, we want to do more than just understand why a client might respond in a particular manner; we want to anticipate their potential responses.

Empathy: We consider this fifth category the ultimate form of awareness. Mastering empathy across cultural lines, understanding a culture without judgment, and connecting on this level is the final step in feeling at home anywhere in the world.

Is your company ready to go global?

Are your leaders?