The world’s global market is currently looking to recruit an unlimited number of global leaders. What is a global leader? He or she is described as international, one who works “outside the home country of the organization,” and expatriate which is “someone who lived and worked ‘overseas’“ (McCall and Hollenbeck, 2002, p. 21). Another term I would like to contribute is virtual global leader and that is one who reaches across the globe via the internet and has the capacity to lead, adjust to, and utilize the sociotechnical systems to accommodate new ways of doing business.
Global organizations have designed jobs, which take into consideration technology, data, and its people, making it possible to have a successful global career, transparent collaboration and opportunities for building and managing relationships across the globe (Rosen et al, 2000). Google Corporation is a shining example of a global organization. The mission statement on their website states: “Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” In addition the site touts that it has offices around the globe, they recruit local talent from Zurich to Bangalore and their staff speaks dozens of languages from Turkish to Telugu.
The successful global leader is someone willing to understand cultural differences, is flexible, can think outside of the box and can handle complicated situations (McCall and Hollenbeck).
Do you qualify?
Are you inquisitive, savvy, a person of character and see things from a variety of perspectives? If this is you, read on because you may qualify.
The positions are for global leaders who are always seeking knowledge, willing to explore the world and willing to challenge what others say and do. You must not be afraid to expand a company’s global reach to achieve a competitive advantage by scouring local markets in foreign countries for usable data and ideas.
As a global leader you must be curious about everything in the face of danger and uncertainty. You have the aptitude to customize business processes and procedures based on the needs of the country and its culture without infringing upon the cultures etiquette. In fact, according to Rosen et al (2000, 173), inquisitive internationalists are “insatiably curious and sensitive about people and places, they analyze their own cultural biases and act like polite guests when traveling abroad, always respecting local customs.” Notable authors Black, Morrison and Gregersen (1999) conclude that, inquisitiveness is the soul of what makes global leadership effective when combined with the global leadership characteristics which include perspective, savvy and character.
The positions require the ability to see situations from multiple viewpoints. Global leaders with this capacity tend to balance contradictory business and personal conditions in their minds simultaneously; they are able to embrace duality (Black et al, 1999).
An American global leader conducting business with Swedish companies must be able to balance the reality that decision-making can occur at any level. In American companies it is common practice for one person to make the final decision when negotiating.
Global leaders that have personal lives must be able to balance all aspects. If you have a personal situation with your children, go home and tend to them. You must be able to put things in perspective. Ponder this. If a child’s health was put at risk because a leader you knew chose to stay in a meeting, would you trust him? Maybe or maybe not.
Global leaders exhibit skills that set them apart from other leaders, and being global business savvy is one of them. These positions require the capability to be able to identify and capitalize on global market opportunities for the company (Black et al, 1999).
IBM’s CEO, Samuel J. Palmisano exhibits business savvy the world over. In September 2006, Mr. Palmisano unleashed Innovation Jam. The company put new ideas and strategies for its future out on the internet for the sharpest minds in the world to refine, with the hope of finding new business (Hempel, 2006). This global leader found a clever way to maximize opportunities and eliminate redundancies through his savvy use of sociotechnical systems. He saved money by using the internet to collaborate instead of spending money on paper surveys.
Are you able to form close relationships with peers, business partners, vendors and suppliers from different cultures, and gain their trust because of your personal character? As a global leader you must be able to connect with people in order to secure insight into your company, competitors and customers (Black et al, 1999). When you connect with people it becomes a two-way relationship. You are willing to serve them and they are willing to serve you.
Another element of your character is being able to show a genuine interest in personal relationships with others. This is a critical quality of a global leader because it is extremely necessary when trying to learn about other cultures such as Afghans and Australians. They value relationships and prefer to know a person before they enter and commit to a business relationship (Gorrill, 2007).
When are these positions available? Now! Seize the moment!
Where have you been? Where would you like to go? Positions are available world-wide. Are you ready to travel?
There is nothing like being in Brittan or Russia to help you understand the business opportunities, challenges, and the culture. Global leaders are effective in foreign countries because they are comfortable being in the midst of a country’s economy, political system, market, culture, etc. One aspiring to work in Malaysia would know not to wear the color yellow because it is reserved for Malaysian royalty (Gorrill, 2007). It takes an inquisitive global leader to know that kind of information!
As a strategy to gain a competitive advantage, “55 percent of Japanese firms reported that they use extensive foreign travel as a key to developing global leaders, while only 40 percent of European firms and 27 percent of U.S. firms use extensive foreign travel for this purpose,” according to a study conducted by Black et al, Mendenhall and Oddon (1999, p. 188). John Pepper, CEO at Procter & Gamble sets the goal to visit five families in every country he visits. He uses these visits and what he learns as a teaching tool for his employees. Not only is he gaining cultural insight but valuable consumer insight.
Regardless of if the company you chose to accept a global leadership position with doesn’t use foreign travel as a development tool it is your responsibility to enhance the quality of what you learn from your trip. Here are some questions to consider as you think about the trips you want to make and the ones you have taken:
1. What ‘detours’ have you taken or plan to take relative to:
· Eating (shops, open markets, stores)?
· Lodging (hotels, inns, apartments)?
· Recreation (sports, camping, hiking)?
· Entertainment (theater, dance, music)?
· Shopping (markets, stores, centers)?
2. How deeply have you plunged into the country in terms of:
· People’s homes?
· Cultural activities?
· Government and politics” (Black et al, 1999, p. 191)?
Things to consider
As you contemplate accepting the call to be a global leader, be sure to logically consider barriers that you may encounter.
The demands of a global leader’s career often place strains on the family. Not only is it essential that the leader adjust to the culture inside and outside of the workplace, but adjust to the adjustments of their family, especially if they have agreed to live in a place that is nothing like their home country. As a global leader, you may have to travel excessively and are obligated to extended absences (McCall and Hollenbeck, 2002). Will you be able to learn effectively if your family is having difficulty adjusting to their new environment? Sometimes, your performance is affected as you become distracted with family issues. Your career can also get derailed indirectly. To succeed in a foreign country with a family, you must be capable of providing emotional and possibly external help. Investigate whether the embassy has support or can offer solutions to help family members get acclimated to the new culture.
Most leaders have heard the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ which means if leadership at headquarters doesn’t see your achievements, you aren’t recognized and rewarded. Then why in a global leader’s right mind would they want a career that is difficult, complex, ambiguous, uncertain, and requires a lot of effort and stress (McCall and Hollenbeck describe)? There is so much room for career derailment!
One way to derail a global career is by not being sensitive to business and personal etiquette of foreign companies. The Chinese and Germans are very status conscious and it is customary for them to enter a room in hierarchical order as well as lead the discussion (Gorrill, 2007). It is important to understand this tradition and not try to negotiate with the wrong person first. This could spell disaster for your career and your company.
Another career breaker for non-Americans is if you tend to spend too much time trying to cultivate personal relationships. It is more important to form business relationships than personal relationships with Americans because their overall goal is to sign a contract, unlike the Spaniards which highly value personal relationships because they prefer doing business with those they know (Gorrill, 2007).
There are so many elements that can destroy or derail a global leader’s career such as not learning about the culture or developing networks. Because derailment is possible, leaders probably ask themselves: is working out of country worth the risk? The positive side is that when the global leader is successful and can achieve senior ranks because of his global experience outside of country, they are also provided with “wonderful opportunities to explore the richness of the world and to grow in ways that many of us can hardly imagine” (McCall and Hollenbeck, 2002, p. 212).
To succeed in any global position you must be willing to learn about the national culture of the company you are considering working for. This takes planning and patience but it is possible. Proverbs 14:20 tells us that “A patient man has great understanding…,” which is why Black et al (1999, p. 119) writes that it takes patience when trying to “understand the heart and soul of people” from different cultures. It may be a slow process but the payoffs could be massive. If you choose to ignore cultural differences of subordinates, suppliers, vendors and stakeholders, you risk cultural miscommunication which could include loss of lucrative contracts, valuable insight into government regulations, strained relationships as well as your job. It would behoove you to take a genuine interest in understanding cultural differences so that cohesive teams can be built to achieve a competitive advantage for the organization and your career.
Read everything relating to your country of interest: magazines, international journals, and the local newspaper. There are websites such as:
Did you know that all countries have business and personal etiquette customs that you should be familiar with? Take a look at China, U.S. and Sweden’s business customs:
· Punctuality is considered extremely important in all three cultures
· The collectivist way of thinking is still important in both the Chinese and Swedish businesses compared to American businesses as it pertains to negotiations. The Americans value individualism because performance is highly valued.
· Long-term relationships are considered more valuable then hurried transactions in China opposed to being insignificant in the U.S.
Although there are numerous world-wide positions available for global leaders, there are some areas that an organization must cultivate so that both the organization and the leader can be successful and the leader must share responsibility. How is this done? Black et al (1999) answers that question by saying global leaders are born and then made.
Organizations must cultivate environments which scream: we are global! Bellin and Pham (2007) believe that companies should “nurture a set of enterprise-wide mindsets which creates a unity of purpose while at the same time successfully adapting practices to diverse local economic and cultural conditions.” Merrill Lynch (2004), one of the world's leading financial management and advisory companies, agrees with this statement. Their brochure titled “The Way We Do Business Our Commitment to Clients and Shareholders” claims “Our leadership team is responsible for instilling an enterprise-wide mindset that puts the good of the firm above individual or business interests.” The appearance is that they are heading down the right path to achieve a global environment.
Some of the advantages include:
“- Mindsets, over time, can help a company develop its own ‘way’ - a unique approach to solving problems and making decisions. When the right mindsets are common throughout an organization, executives can communicate, plan, and implement strategies and operations on a global scale.
- A unique ‘way’ of doing things creates a common identity that can be codified and shared with new employees when the company enters new regions. In this manner, a company can unify regional operations and overcome the challenges of operating among diverse cultures and in many countries.
- Shared mindsets focus a global workforce on common goals, which enables managers at all levels and in all regions to understand and accept the tradeoffs involved in structuring a company to compete internationally” (Bellin and Pham, 2007).
The bottom line is that an enterprise mindset creates a competitive advantage for the entire organization.
It is essential that organizations attempting to retain its talent pool of global leaders not only excel at designing limitless varieties of organizations which provide the kind of global experiences for developmental purposes, but they must also be willing create the environments by forming alliances, mergers, acquisitions, or joint ventures with foreign entities (McCall and Hollenbeck, 2002).
Not only should organizations provide the right environment for the global leader to develop through mergers and alliances but they should also create environments which encourage risk taking and mistakes. Situations such as these are continuous learning opportunities. Inquisitive global leaders thrive in theses types of environments.
Philip Watts, the Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Company is committed to and personally interested in creating a continuous learning environment. He believes that
“Shell companies are committed by their business principles to contributing to sustainable development - integrating economic, social and environmental considerations, balancing short and long-term priorities. This commitment reflects their appreciation of changing societal expectations. They are developing the management systems, tools and indicators to enable them to pursue this goal, which they see as a journey of continuous learning. It is driven by engagement with others in society- seeking to meet people’s changing needs and respond to their concerns” (Watts, 2007).
How do leaders become effective and successful global leaders? Because global work is more difficult, rewarding and frustrating, global leaders must have a global mindset which is having the skills to do global work (McCall and Hollenbeck, 2002). A global mindset is also viewing the world as a stage for creating value. No longer can global leaders sit idly by and let other developing countries outshine them in the market place. They must be willing to work across cultures and borders of business (Black et al, 1999).
Accepting the job
You may be asking yourself: what must I do to accept the job of global leader? I’m glad you asked! I’ve included a self-assessment checklist of items which will help you determine if you are a global leader. Once you have determined that you do qualify, don’t wait! Seize the moment and apply for a global position.
Global Leader Assessment
1. Understand other cultures
2. Flexible, can handle complicated situations, and thinks outside the box
3. Always seeking knowledge
4. Willing to challenge what others say and do
5. Curious about everything even in the face of danger
6. Sees many perspectives
7. Effective and comfortable in foreign in countries
8. The ability to identify and capitalize on global market opportunities
9. Supportive in helping family members adjust to the new culture
10. Sensitive to personal and business etiquette
11. Has a global mindset
12. Seeks global positions
About The Author:
Bridget has over 21 years of technical experience in the computer industry in support of federal and commercial customers. She aspires to lead her own company and return to the days of character, honesty, integrity, and loyalty. Businesses seem to have lost the incentive to have those qualities, but she wants to restore them for the generations to come.
Bridget Gilmore is pursuing her Doctorate of Strategic Leadership with Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA, and anticipates receiving it in the Fall of 2009. Bridget received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Information Systems from Saint Leo University and her Master of Arts degree in Computer Information Systems, Resource Management from Webster University.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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