The global economy is a rapidly shifting frontier. With the continued inclusion of developing nations in the world trade community, the ever-evolving capacity of our communication technologies and a collective thrust toward the deconstruction of regulatory trade limitations, globalization has accelerated tremendously across the last two decades. Those companies which fail to adapt to the changes brought about by globalization will have little chance of surviving. This is the impetus that drives the discussion here. As a company explores opportunities and expands its reach to connect with an international marketplace, it must develop the leadership to ensure its success. It is with this in mind that we proceed with a roadmap for the internal development of effective Global Leaders. The details outlined here below offer an actionable plan for preparing leaders who understand the challenges and the opportunities inherent in cross-cultural management. Our company's fortunes are staked on how well we prepare those individuals who will ultimately represent us in a multinational business setting.
The global vision that drives the development of excellent global leadership is to produce and dispatch leaders who are suited to fast-paced and ever-changing global economy; who are prepared for the challenges of adapting to different cultures and, consequently, different business cultures; who understand the importance of interpersonal relationships in achieving cultural compatibility; and who have the capacity to recognize opportunities specific to new cultural contexts.
With respect to the strategic and cultural priorities attendant to this vision, an important initial pathway to developing effective global leadership is first establishing a foundation that allows for prospective leaders to succeed. The source by Tessmenn-Keys & Wellins is particularly instructive in how best to do so. First and foremost of importance, the source indicates, is establishing successful and recognizable brand identity and high quality assurance. To allow enlisted leaders the opportunity to succeed in unfamiliar cultural and regulatory settings, an organization must be otherwise prepared. Tessmann-Keys & Wellins observe that "firms that invest significant resources into developing strong global brands enjoy greater access to leadership candi- dates around the globe, helping recruitment of superior talent (e.g., multilingual, global experience). While the fight for the best of these candidates is aggressive, the IBMs, Toyotas, and Intels of the world have a head start in developing a global leadership pipeline." (p. 5)
While it may not be realistic to aspire to the recognition of the aforementioned examples, the assertion is directly relevant as we mount a strategy for developing global leadership. Giving this leadership the platform to grow and thrive will be just as important as selecting the right individuals.
Global Leadership Requirements:
Over the next three to five years, we have several goals that will determine our success in each new cultural setting where a presence is sought. Key goals are:
To establish a community presence
To achieve brand recognition
To create a positive working environment
To cultivate a distinct local identity
To maintain the general identity and core values of the global company
The primary business drivers that will challenge our evolving global leaders include the following.
Making interpersonal connections with customers and employees
Making inroads to the marketing and promotional culture
Fostering locally appropriate internal culture
Recognizing customs and norms in broader business culture
Achieving balance between said customs and broader company norms
The keys to success and business drivers outlined above are especially useful in outlining the ideal candidate for global leadership. These help us to defining the critical qualities which must be present in a developing global leader. Essential among them is cultural adaptability. As the research encountered here denotes, an orientation toward an increasingly diverse and inclusive global marketplace gives a leaders and the company he or she represents a meaningful competitive edge. According to the text by Tessmann-Keys & Wellins, this entails something more comprehensive than just compatibility with a contextualizing culture. Beyond this, such adaptability will include the ability to function within a distinct business culture. In other words, it is not enough to simply understand a host culture but to recognize that its business culture carries a number of its own distinct characteristics. Tessmann-Keys & Wellins indicate that "These leaders not only know the customs, culture, and etiquette of the region or regions in which they operate, but, more importantly, they understand the nuances of business in those areas -- small differences that can determine success and failure. These can be as simple as awareness of cultural negotiation norms, or as complex as knowledge of the supply chain relationships in a particular country." (p. 5)
Also essential to the Success Profile of a global leader is the ability to strategically optimize the opportunities that emerge around him. This means that we will seek leadership that has a demonstrated capacity for recognizing potential and seizing upon it. Over time, the effective global leader will transcend familiarity with his new setting and find ways to improve team management, quality assurance, product design, customer service or internal processes. (Tessmann-Keys & Wellins, p. 6) Because every cultural context is distinct, a global leader will bring a talent for amplifying opportunities as they make themselves apparent.
The text by Mercer/Oliver Wynan expands on this concept by asserting that the 'complete leader' has "the ability to adapt and respond to different circumstances and to connect with different kinds of employees, including employees of different ages and different cultural backgrounds. 'Leaders (globally) will exist on the basis of their interpersonal relationships, behavior and flexibility, as opposed to what they know." (p. 2)
This speaks to a most critical dimension of the global leader's Success Profile. Namely, these above-noted features of cultural adaptability and the ability to capitalize on emergent potential must be supplemented by universal people skills. The individual best-suited for a specific international assignment is one whose personality makes him likely to succeed regardless of the encompassing culture. The ideal global leader possesses personality traits that will allow him to shape strategy based on the culture and context around him rather than one who relies on ingrained knowledge and seeks to force together incompatible strategies and contexts.
In addition to the personality traits and talents cited here above, choosing high-potential leaders should include a meaningful push for diversity. Naturally, for the company aspiring to move into multinational waters, diversity should be considered a core part of the personnel recruitment strategy. This produces an almost inherent sense of cross-cultural sensitivity in a well-cultivated working environment. However, with respect to developing global leadership, diversity should also be a feature sought in the set of candidates to be deployed. The text by George (2012) indicates that many of the most successful and recognizable international brands are those that have actively worked to create ethnically, culturally and nationally diverse cores of leadership. This is based on the understanding that "to make sound decisions, companies need a diverse set of leaders who have deep understanding of their local customers, especially those in emerging markets. Opportunities at the highest levels, including C-suite and CEO, must be open to people of all national origins. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is a pioneer in geographic diversity. As early as the 1960s, the company was run by South African Paul Austin. Since that time, Coca-Cola has had Cuban, Australian, and Irish CEOs, leading to today's CEO, Turkish-American Muhtar Kent." (George, p. 1)
This demonstrates a willingness to define the company's core leadership apart from the prevailing culture in its nation of origin. Certainly, imbuing a western company with leadership philosophies forged in non-western contexts like South Africa or Turkey lends itself to greater cultural adaptability in a cross-cultural environment. This informs the overarching imperative for drafting high-potential leaders, which is to ensure that beyond the basic qualifications sought in identifying those with the excellence and experience to be leaders, we also nurture diversity as a modus operandi.
In a separate source, George1 (2012) points to the United States as a hotbed for the educational development of tomorrow's global business leaders. Using recruitment channels that access the most elite tiers of our higher education system will allow access not just to a diversity of minds, but to the best and the brightest from all over the world. George reports that "the U.S. has become a Mecca for international scientists, engineers and business students -- particularly those undertaking graduate studies. Since the 2008 financial collapse, a new generation of business school deans is placing increased emphasis on developing global leaders. In particular, Harvard, MIT, and Stanford have geared their programs toward global leaders: as a result, 26-38% of their graduate students are foreign nationals." (George1, p. 1)
This offers a rational starting point for recruitment of Potential High Profile leaders who might not only grow with the company, but who already come armed with experience managing success and adaptability to an unfamiliar culture. Foreign nationals studying in America's elite universities offer can be a boon to companies looking for leaders who are right out of school but who still offer the benefit…