Global organizations need leaders who can drive business on a global scale. No organization can afford to overlook optimizing the performance of leaders who are successful in this regard.
Individuals who are required to lead across cultures often need to make decisions in complex or ambiguous environments and understand cultural nuances. In all, they have to adapt.
A good track record in one country does not guarantee success in another — nor will merely exposing high-performing leaders to new cultures make them effective multinational leaders.
Right Management and Tucker International recently partnered on a study titled “Leading Across Cultures in the Human Age.” The study surveyed 1,867 leaders of 13 nationalities to help multinational clients address the challenges of developing leaders with global responsibilities.
The research identified six competencies essential for global leadership success:
• Adapting socially — to socialize comfortably with new people in unfamiliar social situations, and to demonstrate genuine interest in other people.
• Demonstrating creativity — to enjoy new challenges, namely from social and situational issues, and to learn from a variety of sources. Aim to find more creative approaches, which, despite often being more difficult, have proven to be more successful in ambiguous environments.
• Even disposition — to remain calm, not be critical of oneself and learn from mistakes.
• Respecting beliefs — demonstrate respect for the political and spiritual beliefs of people in other cultures.
• Instilling trust — to build and maintain trusting relationships, even though trust does not mean the same thing to members of different cultures.
• Navigating ambiguity — to see through vagueness and uncertainty, not become frustrated, and figure out how things are done in other cultures.
Learning leaders should also consider the following applications for developing and retaining global leaders:
Select overseas managers: Use the six competencies to ensure the right managers are selected to assume and succeed in international or global roles. Assess their abilities against the competencies and identify gaps and risks associated with performance. Create personalized development plans to foster growth and build strength. Evaluate competency strength against desired outcomes.
Grow international leadership bench strength: Grow leadership talent pipelines around the world to ensure a strong pool of qualified leaders ready for deployment into global roles. Continually identify, develop, nurture and retain leaders as part of an ongoing talent development strategy. Provide coaching to accelerate development.
Ensure success of leaders in new international roles: Once the decision to expand a leader’s role to a global one has been made, be sure to put steps in place to help his or her success. The cost associated with deploying the wrong leader is high — as many as 42 percent of leaders fail when transferred internationally.
Together, develop an action plan for the first 90 days in the new role to ensure alignment with priorities and goals. Assign a coach for continued development. Meet for regular reviews of goal achievement against plan and adapt for change as necessary.
Localize country management teams: Many global companies are now focusing on developing their own local talent as part of building leadership bench strength. These local leaders may take on overseas assignments themselves one day. Relying on foreign assignees is costly and unsustainable. Build accelerated leadership development programs that are customized for the top two to three levels of management to ensure a robust pipeline.
Owen J. Sullivan is CEO of Right Management and president of ManpowerGroup Specialty Brands. He can be contacted at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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