Seven Crucial Global Leadership Qualities & Traits
What is global leadership, and what do leaders need to know to thrive? Are there qualities & traits that precisely define global leadership? How can global leaders hone their skills and improve their cross-cultural effectiveness?
If you want to succeed in today’s volatile global economy, you must be prepared to do business all around the world.
This is a factThe different values and expectations that global team members from diverse cultures bring to their work can sometimes make even the most experienced global leaders feel lost.
We are living in an extraordinary age in which pluralism is set to become an even greater force for change and human development in the decades to come.
Leaders must leverage personal as well as cultural differences to gain trust and build collaborative relationships in their home workplace, across borders and globally. In order to influence character, they must know their own character.
Global leaders operate in multiple environments across borders with different cultural and government systems to achieve a common objective.
As companies integrate into global operations, it is essential for leaders to constantly evolve and master attributes to adopt to these complexities and challenges. Organizations with global leaders unable to navigate through the complexities and challenges entailed in these multi-faceted roles is detrimental to the growth and success of a company.
Here are seven qualities & traits current and aspiring global leaders should cultivate to fill the leadership gap.
If you are considering stepping into an international leadership role, and are asking yourself if this is the best move for you, there are seven qualities and traits that you should look for in your skillset that will help you decide whether you have what it takes to be a truly global leader.
Understanding your beliefs and knowing where they might differ from others’ is critical to global executive success. Without this key characteristic, you will not be able to adapt to and tolerate the deep-seated beliefs of others — and business opportunities will evaporate.
Self-awareness is important to understand your own strengths, weaknesses, and default behaviors in an international setting.
The first step is to be honest with yourself about what your skills are and what is actually needed in the role — particularly if you are tasked with being a global leader. Beware of the “I’m right; you’re wrong” assumption.
Global leaders cannot become successful in cross-cultural work without first understanding the global leadership skill set they are starting with.
This is a factI mean their values, attitudes, biases, culture, leadership style and personal attributes. This type of deep self-awareness is needed to help a leader understand the deep-seated beliefs of others, which can open up more opportunities for business success.
Self-awareness is key to becoming an effective global leader by understanding their strengths and weaknesses.
This is a factLeaders who are self-aware hire people who have strengths in areas they are weak and more likely to listen to ideas from people with divergent perspectives.
Global leaders have an increased awareness of a connection with themselves and others. They find meaning in their lives discerning what is truly important.
Living purposefully and mindfully, they are united with themselves and with others. Wisdom combined with lightness allows them to appreciate and savor life, and to accept suffering that cannot be avoided with courage and dignity, building resilience.
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Having a clear understanding of your own abilities and limitations allows for more effective communication, because a self-aware leader is better able to recognize the impact they have on the people around them. They have the presence of mind to see when they offend someone or when they talk over someone’s head, leaving them confused.
Navigating the complexities in a global organization requires the support and guidance of partnerships and alliances. Effective global leaders attract support at the highest levels through their strong negotiating skills.
Building alliances is one of the most important competencies for global leaders.
This is a factEffective global leaders successfully build trusting and long-term strategic relationships, both internally and externally, and leverage those partnerships to have alignment around the organizations’ s mission, and complete tasks at hand.
Building trust is essential in ‘high context’ cultures.
This trust can only come with time and through personal rapport and networks. It will not come from being overly direct. If you don’t take time to develop personal relationships, you will fail.
Many cultures, especially those in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, value personal relationships above contracts, legal questions, logic, decisions and deals.
Even the nature of what it means to be a friend can differ in different countries, many of which develop very, very deep relationships with friends. Global leaders must understand these nuances and know how to cultivate the right relationships when culturally appropriate.
Frame-shifting is this ability to shift leadership style depending on the country/culture.
A consultative style that draws upon the input of others may be OK when operating in Italy. But that style would not be appropriate in Korea where employees are used to very hierarchical relationships and expect management to provide all the answers.
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Even if trust propensity varies across cultures, trust doesn’t develop slowly through steps, but is likely to be established, or not, right at inception. This is why the first interactions are critical to establish trust-based relationships.
Curiosity Doesn't Kill The Cat
Global leaders won’t succeed without developing a curiosity for other cultures and ways to do business in other parts of the world. It’s challenging enough to keep up with the evolution of culture and business in the United States.
Fostering an inclusive, collaborative environment can strengthen leadership with innovation.
The alternative is to leave the majority of decision-making in the hands of a select few leaders, which closes off external influence and feedback. An inclusive leader cherishes feedback and ideas, especially from those who hold a variety of points of view different from his or her own.
Being interested in other cultures and how people in those cultures do things, especially with regard to business, implies a certain humility.
This is a factHumility here means a belief that other cultures have figured out very interesting answers to life’s problems. As a global leader, you must be open to and fascinated by those answers. This trait requires a willingness and ability to listen well and with real intention.
Curiosity is defined as the desire to learn or know about something or someone.
This is a factCuriosity drives the acquisition of new information and the creation of new connections, and, despite popular wisdom, curiosity is a learnable personality trait. It can be cultivated and developed like any other competency.
The world is constantly evolving. Curiosity won’t kill the cat!
Without an intense curiosity and a desire to learn, you will be left behind and increasingly unable to converse, much less keep up, with your peers. Staying abreast of new learning opportunities requires a humble awareness that what you know is not enough and that you always have more to learn.
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The fact that expectations can vary dramatically from culture to culture might come as a surprise to those just beginning their global leadership journey. This is why global leaders must recognize their own cultural preferences and biases.
It’s important to manage a culturally diverse situation by balancing your own perspective against that of the other person’s point of view.
This is a factDoing so can lead to the ability to see the world through the viewpoint of someone from a different culture, which is one of the best strengths a global leader can have. It’s also critical for building and maintaining effective teams created with international employees.
Global leaders appreciate the legitimacy and merits of different cultural perspectives.
Seen as a source of richness and an opportunity to go beyond current limitations, they have an inclusive and dynamic concept of culture that contrasts with the traditional static and binary view. They know their own cultural norms, values and assumptions and can leverage cultural differences.
Global leaders who embrace diversity are more likely to encourage risk taking and disruptive thinking to challenge the status quo and foster innovation.
This is a factUnleashing innovative ideas, inciting collaboration, and solving problems across multi-faceted organization entails embracing input whose cultural background, experience and/or personality differs from their own.
Some experience overseas before taking on a global leadership role is helpful.
Areas where you need to gain knowledge include cultural history, religions, beliefs, political systems, values and social rules and norms. This is an area that sometimes gets skipped over, but it’s an integral part of business strategy.
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You must have an intense interest in the lives and cultures of others, recognizing that your culture and background are not inherently superior, to master the global business arena.
Apt To Adapt
Leading internationally requires global leaders to demonstrate flexibility in attitude, judgment, communication style and leadership behavior: how you inspire and motivate a team in Dubai will be significantly different from how you inspire a similar team in Manila.
Global leaders must adapt quickly. Dealing in global business is not like dealing with one supplier in Indiana and another in Texas.
This is a factLeaders must develop flexibility in how they approach situations in different countries based on the local culture. This includes both their personal approach and the systems they put into place. What has worked for years in the U.S. might not work at all in parts of Europe or Asia.
Adapting to a wide range of business challenges quickly is instrumental in leading a global organization.
An effective leader needs to be flexible and shift his or her tactics and approach while continuing to command a room and guiding the business in the right direction. Ultimately, they must be prepared to act when faced with conflicting information. It requires boldness and a degree of emotional intelligence.
When you expand into new markets or develop international teams, it’s easy enough to assume that the whole world plays by your rules.
Doing what you have always done is often the mindset of Western multinationals. However, with cross-border mergers becoming ever more frequent, it’s increasingly important to decentralize, embrace local brands and tastes, diversify and develop strong relationships with local leaders.
When you have a global perspective, you think strategically about managing business using the best people from around the planet.
Much of your ability to do this comes from a lifetime of networking at the highest levels in global boardrooms and your aptitude for seeing how various pieces of global industries play out internationally. To make strategic decisions for your company, you need to understand how the business world works on a global scale.
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Global organizations are ever-changing environments with multi-layer complexities. Effective global leaders need to not be resistant to change and be able to be versatile and adapt to dynamic environments with shifting priorities.
When it comes to global leadership, communication skills must be refined to a higher level of sophistication, This includes all forms of communication: in-person, via technology, on the telephone and in writing. Presentation skills need to be expert-level.
Effective global leaders learn to overcome geographic, culture and language barriers and adapt their communication skills accordingly.
This is a factIf you converse with others in their native language, you usually earn brownie points — however, if what you have to say is obscure or unintelligible, you’ll quickly be in a deficit balance. Clear communication is a powerful leadership trait to have on the global stage.
Global leader must also prepare for differences that can prove bewildering.
For example, men in many markets are expected to deliver conclusions directly, while women are expected to guide listeners to a conclusion. Men in Hong Kong, China, India and Singapore take command of a room, while women in Japan, Brazil and Russia take command by facilitating dialogue between others.
Emotional awareness, persistence, and resilience are important traits for global leaders to master, especially stressful circumstances.
Global leaders are aware of the source of their emotions and are capable of sensing and responding effectively in situations that are emotionally charged. Self-control becomes even more crucial in a global, uncertain, and complex context. The ability to control and channel emotions can be practiced.
Effective global leaders learn to overcome geographic, culture and language barriers.
This is a factCommunication can be a challenge in any setting; it is more complex and even more essential to communicate effectively when you are operating from a distance. Promoting open communication across the business generally needs to be a foundational company value charter that is embodied throughout all levels of the company.
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Hold Your Horses!
Effective global leaders need to be patient as it reinforces the importance of focusing on long-term outcomes. In today’s climate acting with speed is a desired attribute people want in leaders as it helps them get ahead of the competition.
Yet, acting hastily can cause mistakes or missed opportunities because do not have time to reflect.
This is a factEffective leaders recognize that patience enables them to understand the situation and wait until they can take appropriate and effective actions to capitalize on them.
Since gaining and giving respect can’t be achieved overnight, leaders should employ patience.
Being able to patiently approach people and in return gain their respect will be mutually beneficial to both leader and team member. One has to understand that once you do get respect, you need to nurture it and encourage others to do the same.
Patience is the capacity to tolerate delay without getting frustrated. It allows you to remain calm, even though it seems that you’ve been waiting forever for something to happen.
Patience enables you to become less reactionary to obstacles posed by groups that might not see the world in the same exact way that you do. Patience allows you to suspend judgment long enough to engage others, learn something new or different, and modify your ideas, so they become more powerful.
Patience and timing require a flexible attitude toward unforeseen events.
This is a factTiming is everything. Building a company takes time. Wise leaders know this and use patience appropriately. Some don’t and their attempts fail.
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Cross-cultural leadership is not an overnight success. Leaders need to be patient and persist to the common goals. Besides, they should keep an eye on the whole progress to ensure the mutual trust among individuals from different cultures.
As a global business leader, you must respect the identities and affiliations of others. Some people can do that; many or most cannot. Do you have what it takes to become a global business leader?
Tomorrow’s successful companies will be those that are already grooming managers to be global leaders.
With more than 50 percent of revenues in U.S. multinationals coming from overseas, it becomes critical to have leaders who understand the strategic markets of the future.
Grooming oneself to become a global leader means striving to move upward, beyond the scope of your current position and into a position of greater responsibility.
This is a factA leader with a full understanding of a company’s entire organization, capabilities, and future direction, as well as the knowledge and sensitivity to act on the global stage, will make the greatest impact.
To be an effective global leader is having the willingness and ability to thrive outside of your comfort zones and embrace diversity.
It is to seek to understand before being understood, and listen to show others they are heard, while showing empathy. It is to have the ability to build strong partnerships across the organization with a clear vision of the company’s future.
Being a global leader is not for everyone — but those that persevere discover a new found strength and degree of flexibility that only comes with working and leading globally.
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