Helping companies and their people succeed globally.

Everyone can be a global leader

Article by John Graham, Link Global Business Solutions​

 

First, let’s dispel some myths about leadership.

Leadership is not necessarily defined by your position in the company’s hierarchy, your seniority or salary. You don’t need a title to lead; you don’t reach a management or executive position and suddenly become a leader. Similarly, leadership is not defined by your personal attributes; you don’t need extroverted charismatic traits to practice leadership, and those with charisma don’t automatically lead. So, how do we define the type of leader that everyone can be? Simply put, leadership is “social influence of others to maximise efforts and achieve a common goal”. While this defines leadership, great leaders need to develop their strengths in the following competencies:

  • Having self-awareness and positivity
  • Establishing a vision
  • Defining a common goal
  • Strategising
  • Influencing
  • Mentoring
  • Communicating
  • Building and maintaining relationships
  • Team facilitation
  • Critical thinking
  • Organisational understanding
  • Content knowledge

OK, so that is leadership or domestic leadership, and of course over the years the subject has been very well documented and the definition and competencies are continually developing. We are moving away from the more “traditional leadership” idea where a leader is a person in a position with certain characteristics, to the idea that we can all influence others and thus lead.

But, what is the difference between leadership and global leadership?

Global leaders carry out tasks similar to leaders but they execute them in more diverse and complex situations, with teams of people from diverse linguistic, cultural, ethical, religious and business practice backgrounds.

So, global leadership is all the leadership competencies but with something extra, simply put, it is having a global mindset. A global leader is an individual who has the language, communication, cultural, inclusive, and technical competencies needed to support and lead others in a global setting.

The global setting might be:

  • Entering new foreign export markets
  • Maintaining and growing foreign export opportunities
  • Working with colleagues in increasingly more complex and diverse organisations
  • Leading or supporting in diverse global teams
  • Working with global partners, such as vendors and customers
  • Global mergers, acquisitions, alliances and partnerships
  • Aligning and executing global organisational strategies in a local environment

So, what are the global mindset competencies, those things that turn a leader into a global leader?

Language is the foundation for working in a global environment; people feel more at ease when dealing with someone who speaks the same language as them. Although there are more speakers of Chinese, English has evolved naturally to become the global language of business. English has grown its dominance to become a basic skill needed for entire workforces, while the ability to speak a second or third language is important for those wishing to become global leaders.

Language is an important means of communication, but effective global communication and global leadership require understanding and practical application of other aspects of global leadership.

Intercultural Competence. Cultural self-awareness means the realization that one’s own leadership practices are shaped by a particular environment and that there are other perhaps equally or even more viable ways of getting things done in other global settings.

Learning why and how to adapt your behaviour or leadership style to be effective when working with other cultures is fundamental in achieving global success. I have learnt that adjusting your intercultural communication style and behaviour can be the difference between success and failure when working with either Asians or Western (and Northern) Europeans.

Although relationships play an important business role in all cultures they are much more important among Asian countries. In China, Japan and Korea great care should be taken to form strong binding relationships in the earliest stage of the partnership. To these more collectivist nations, relationships build trust, whereas in Western and Northern European countries, which are more individualistic, focusing on the task is more important. In Western and Northern Europe trust can be gained by providing information or showing your experience, knowledge or expertise, the relationship is still important but is usually secondary. Understanding these unique differences and having the knowledge and skills to respond by shifting your communication style are important global leadership competencies.

Communication Skills. Communicating is an important leadership competency, but successful global communication requires the effective use of situational language in the target language and communication (soft) skills in specific everyday business activities such as:

  • E-mailing
  • Delivering presentations
  • Facilitating and participating in meetings
  • Negotiating

Having the confidence to persuasively and effectively communicate your message in English in any of these areas of global business has become a prerequisite for global employees and global leaders. What should you say and do to successfully facilitate a meeting? Do you have the necessary skills and persuasive language to negotiate with a team of native English or foreign customers? Are you aware of the cultural expectations of your Swedish, Austrian, Saudi Arabian or Indian audience? How do you use visual and vocal communication to deliver a presentation effectively to a large audience? And can you deal with the challenging questions from your forthright American customers? In addition to these everyday business activities you will also benefit from good communication skills when:

  • Working with colleagues and managing up and down
  • Managing conflict
  • Persuading and influencing
  • Pitching to potential clients
  • Providing customer service
  • Face-to-face networking
  • Marketing your business

The ability to communicate well is one of the biggest factors in business success. You might have excellent ideas, products or services but if you’re unable to promote them well through communicating effectively with colleagues and clients, your potential is limited.

Inclusive Leadership. Do you work in a diverse setting? Probably the answer is yes. Even in small to medium sized enterprises there is usually some diversity in the workforce; gender, age, religion, ethnicity, nationality, language, personality, thinking styles, individual cultural preferences and departmental cultures.

The accelerated growth of globalisation and complexity of global business, influenced greatly by Internet related IT and telecommunications, has meant that global leaders and employees are experiencing greater challenges and are working with more diverse workforces.

Inclusive leaders are aware of the impact of diversity and set and reinforce practices that enable their diverse workforce to work to their fullest potential by leveraging each individual’s diversity of thought, ability, experience and opinion. There will always be diversity in the workplace, but organisations’ culture in terms of adopting an inclusive leadership model will determine whether this diversity becomes a risk or an opportunity. The culture of leveraging diversity through practicing inclusive leadership will lead to more ideas, innovation and growth, not to mention a happier and more effective workforce.

So, if you can influence you can lead, and if you master the global mindset; language, intercultural competence, global communication skills and inclusive leadership you can be a global leader.


Written by John Graham; Managing Director, Consultant and Trainer at Link Global Business Solutions.


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