GLC Defined
Global leaders act as BRIDGE BUILDERS, connectors of resources and talent across cultural and political boundaries (Harvard 2012)

They are the GLUE that binds dispersed teams together and harmonize local and global goals.

They build requisite cross-border, cross-business synergies, build commitment to global business objectives, connect seemingly disjointed dots and sustain local relevance and engagement.

“Globalization … is all about overcoming national differences and embracing the best practices from around the world. Something more than an American, European or Asian approach to leadership is required. Needed is a global leadership model that can be applied throughout the world, a model that transcends and integrates national schemes and becomes an essential tool for hiring, training and retaining the leaders of tomorrow” Beechler

BOUNDARY SPANNING SKILLS, essentially a leader’s ability to create linkages across diverse, organizational, and cultural boundaries are a prerequisite to leading in today´s global economy.

Cultural intelligence, networking and situational leadership skill are part of boundary spanning. Leaders must be able to reconcile opposing values and beliefs regarding power relations and communication when building cross-cultural synergies across multinational organizations.

Leading with Head, Heart and Gut
Global leaders lead with their heads to manage complexity, their hearts to manage diversity and with their gut to manage uncertainty.

The heart and gut of global leaders should be tempered by intercultural empathy and the head with cultural intelligence.

Global Leadership Competence – a Rare Commodity
In a survey of Fortune 500 Corporations, having competent global leaders was rated as the most important factor for business success. In the same survey, 85% of executives said that they do not think they have an adequate number of global leaders and more that 65% believe that their existing leaders need additional skills and knowledge before they can meet the challenge of global leadership.

Corporations are faced with the tough challenge of recruiting leaders with requisite GLC amidst the current talent shortage on the global market. In addition organizations are focusing on developing global leadership capability within their ranks.

Presumed Global Literacy
Leaders in multinational corporations are required to drive global business models, align local and global business objectives, lead disparate regional teams and sustain employee commitment to key corporate values and overall corporate mission in the current volatile economic environment. Seasoned leaders from diverse world regions, bring considerable business experience and professional expertise to the playing field.

Navigating the business challenges within organizations with a global footprint, demands a different style of leadership than what it takes to be successful in a known cultural environment. Leaders increasingly need to be able to work in unfamiliar situations and cultures in which the leadership skills that they have honed in their local market are no longer enough – indeed these may even be counter-productive when used in a new context. Think open, honest communication, more typical in the Western world, in Asia!

It cannot be presumed that leaders have the requisite cultural literacy and geocentric situational leadership skill to leverage their experience and expertise in an ever changing, ambiguous global environment.

The challenges of leading in today´s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA ) environment require excellent situational leadership capability.

The requirements on leaders navigating the global market – compared with leading in a single country have been described as follows:

A heightened need for cultural understanding within a setting characterized by wider-ranging diversity
Greater need for broad knowledge that spans functions and nations
Wider and more frequent boundary spanning both within and across organizational and national boundaries
More stakeholders to understand and consider when making decisions
A more challenging and expanded list of competing tensions both on and off the job
Heightened ambiguity surrounding decisions and related outcomes and effects
More challenging ethical dilemmas relating to globalisation
Leaders need to demonstrate a geocentric approach supported by intercultural competence, socio-political knowledge of the regions in which they operate, tolerance for ambiguity, change agility and an ability to leverage diversity to meet global business objectives.

Leadership development programs in organizations need to jettison one-dimensional thinking to ensure that their leaders develop the skills and attitudes required to lead in the VUCA environment.

Developing Global Leadership Competence
Most recent studies summarize the following competencies as essential to global leadership

Intercultural:        Cultural sensitivity, cultural intelligence, global mind-set
Social:                     Emotional intelligence, empathy, self-control
Creativity:              Breakthrough thinking, innovations, synergistic orientation
Self-Knowledge:   Self-efficacy, self-reflective
Positive Outlook:  Vision, passion, optimism
Responsiveness:   Flexible, agile, opportunistic

The Handbook of Global Management (Blackwell) summarizes the Building Blocks of Global Competencies as follows


The following series will explore some of the above Global Leadership dimensions and how to develop individual and organizational capability.

  1. Intercultural Competence
  2. Building a high performance culture in a global environment
  3. Global Mindset
  4. Leading in a global matrix environment
  5. Leading in a VUCA environment
  6. Leading a virtual, remote team

Thanks for your interest!
Next in Series: Defining Intercultural Competence

Look forward to seeing you back
Yours Christine
Dr. Christine McCarthy, Coach, Speaker & Consultant