What makes a business leader a true global business leader?
One of the most important mission of a business leader is to improve bottom-line results by having a clear vision, shared values and a mission statement that inspire, motivate and engage employees .
The job of a true global leader is the same as any business leader except that for companies operating globally those executives MUST integrate in the company strategy the cultural differences in customers’ preferences and local social rules to lead employees across borders.
Developing cultural Intelligence is key for global leaders who usually share same curiosity and interest in other cultures, do not judge but have a thirst to learn cultural differences.
Cultural intelligence cannot be learned by simply visiting different countries for few weeks, learning languages, attend cross-cultural webinars or read books.
Cultural intelligence is acquired by being exposed directly to cross-cultural challenges at work and everyday life, preferably with family.
Regarding following spouse and children, too often their role in the expatriate executive’s performance and success is overlooked. From personal experience the working partner and the following family members face totally different challenges.The addition of the two experiences deepen the acquisition of the local culture.
The executive team should reflect the diversity of the company’s customers and employees. Unfortunately there is still the “white men” , ethnocentric leadership style that is most prevalent today, except for companies such as America-based Coca-Cola or German-based Henkel that have long history of having a multicultural top management team.
In a previous article why white men can’t lead I gave several references gathering evidence that today’s leadership models, although they may differ from person to person and method to method, generally have a common bias toward Western or European-influenced ways of thinking.
How To Develop True Global Business Leaders ?
Future global top executives must manage their career both horizontally across functions and countries and vertically starting by spending some time being one of the front-line employees (sales and customer services, research or manufacturing for example). They can acquire knowledge in the same company if this one has a good global talent development program but most global executives have experienced different companies and various industries.
This practical experience is needed to develop the skills of a global leaders because “global” does not only means cross-cultural leadership but also to have a holistic view of the company as a whole entity including:
1-A strong corporate culture: Company explicit and implicit rules and guidelines, leadership style, vision, values, mission
2-Local cultures: Countries and regions where the company operate: Language (verbal and body language), religion, cultural values and norms, communication styles
3-Each individual team member’s own culture, values, beliefs, set of norms
To develop cultural intelligence you need to be a chameleon who is able to change its color to reflect its environment. Usually it is mandatory to have lived several years abroad, in at least two totally different cultures, across different continents, speak minumum two languages including being fluent in business English.
Effective global leaders must create TRUST regardless of ethnicity or country of origin by actively listening to everybody’s ideas before making a decision concerning the introduction of a new product or service in a foreign market.
Here a great video illustrating the process of acquiring cultural intelligence: