Global Mindset (2)

Do You Have the Global Mindset Required to Lead Effectively Across Cultures?

In today’s business environment, companies are increasingly searching across borders to find growth opportunities.  With this increased focus on emerging markets, organizations need to develop leaders with the ability to work effectively across cultures.  However, according to the Conference Board’s CEO Challenge 2015, there is a “surprising lack of emphasis on cross-cultural competence” among the companies in their study.  As a result, it is no surprise that organizations’ strategies to grow in emerging markets are being constrained by a lack of global leadership talent.  Consider the following data cited in McKinsey Quarterly (Ghemawat):

“According to one survey of senior executives, 76 percent believe their organizations need to develop global leadership capabilities, but only 7 percent think they are currently doing so very effectively.  And some 30 percent of US companies admit that they have failed to exploit fully their international business opportunities because of insufficient internationally competent personnel.”

In order to fuel the earnings growth they desire, then, global companies have to develop talent more effectively and more quickly.  Failure to do so will undermine even the best growth strategies.

Cross-Cultural Challenges Exist at Home Too

While global leadership capability is needed for companies to thrive in emerging markets, global leadership challenges exist in our home countries as well.  Consider how many of us are increasingly called upon to communicate, do business with and influence people who are unlike ourselves.  To what extent have you been required to do any of the following?

  • Engage in international travel
  • Participate in global project teams
  • Collaborate with international counterparts in other parts of the world
  • Negotiate with global partners and suppliers
  • Create global corporate strategies
  • Implement global corporate processes
  • Influence a multi-cultural workforce at your home office

So, whether you are living as an expatriate in a foreign culture or engaging in weekly conference calls with multi-cultural colleagues, you are a global leader.   Are you up to the challenge?  Do you have the global mindset required to be successful?

Global Mindset is Key to Cross-Cultural Success

I have had the privilege of studying with Dr. Mansour Javidan, Director of the Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.  At Thunderbird, they describe global mindset as:

“Your ability to relate to, influence and interact with others who are unlike yourself.  Individuals with high levels of Global Mindset are most comfortable in global situations, understand the nuances of cross-cultural interaction, thrive on diversity and are most likely to succeed in international leadership roles.”

Based on research done at Thunderbird, having a Global Mindset is critical to cross-cultural success for business leaders.  It consists of three global dimensions (intellectual, psychological and social) that contain the following nine factors:

  • Intellectual
    1. Global Business Savvy – Do you understand the strategies, markets, risks and supplier options in your global industry?
    2. Cosmopolitan Outlook – Do you know the geographic, historical, economic and political issues of the places in which you do business?
    3. Cognitive Complexity – Do you have the ability to intellectually navigate complex issues?
  • Psychological
    1. Passion for Diversity – Are you passionate about and energized by diversity?
    2. Quest for Adventure – Do you have a sense of adventure?
    3. Self-Assurance – Are you energized by working in new environments that are challenging and unpredictable?
  • Social
    1. Intercultural Empathy – Do you have the ability to connect emotionally with people from other parts of the world?
    2. Interpersonal Impact – Do you have the ability to establish credibility, build consensus and develop your personal network?
    3. Diplomacy – Do you have the ability to ask questions, actively listen and observe in order to understand the values and motivations of others?

Developing Capability to Lead Globally

To develop global leadership capability, I use the Global Mindset Inventory (GMI), a leading psychometric tool to measure leaders’ strengths and weaknesses on the nine above mentioned elements.  Using the GMI is an effective way to assess a leader’s potential to be successful in a cross-cultural assignment.  Further, the assessment results can form the basis of a development plan to accelerate a leader’s readiness for global assignments.  Such a plan would ideally include learning from education, coaching and experience, as suggested below:

  • Education – Participate in an experiential development program that is designed to increase your understanding of cultural differences. This foundational work is essential and most effective when integrated with coaching and immersion in multi-cultural experiences.
  • Coaching – Engage a certified coach that can administer the GMI and coach you on how to strengthen your global mindset. Coaching is especially important as it is the most effective approach to develop the challenging psychological dimension of Global Mindset (i.e., elements #4-6, above).
  • Experience – Once you have the foundational education and coaching that you need, there is still a big gap between knowing and doing. In order to be an effective global leader, you will need to immerse yourself in multi-cultural experiences that will act as crucibles for learning.

As the Conference Board and McKinsey data demonstrate, companies that want to succeed globally will have to make global leadership development a higher priority.  Using the approach I have suggested above is a proven way to develop the global leadership capability of high potential talent.


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