Leadership in Action

Leadership in Action

Corporations are starting to find benefits to growing their customer base transnationally. These benefits include increased revenue and visibility. As corporations evolve into multinational corporations (MNCs), they fuel the process of globalization (Cantwell & Janne, 2000). Globalization is the open exchange of goods, services, technology, and information between nations.

Globalization is attributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall (Wharton Magazine, 2014). It revealed an uneven exchange of goods in East and West Germany. The Berlin Wall became a catalyst for unrestricted movement and the flow of goods and services (Wharton Magazine, 2014). Transnational trading expanded throughout Europe and soon progressed across the globe. This transition has resulted in the interconnectedness and integration of countries.

Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Arthur G.O. Mutambara, believes that understanding the interconnectedness of global challenges and the interdependence between countries and communities is an essential characteristic of a global leader (World Economic Forum, 2009). This interconnectedness has allowed less developed countries to leverage the resources and services of developed nations. It enables countries to outsource services or goods to countries with that specialty—countries can take advantage of new markets and innovations. Globalization also provides a larger platform to advance domestic and international social justice. Due to advantages like these, globalization has become a powerhouse in the modern world. 

This interdependence encouraged Thomas L. Friedman to write The World is Flat in 2005. Friedman (2005) suggested that the “world is flat” since technology has enabled transcontinental communication. His theory posited that ten significant events leveled the playing field (Friedman, 2005). The ten events, he called “The Ten Flatteners,” included the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the invention of Netscape, workflow software and uploading, outsourcing, offshoring, supply-chaining, insourcing, informing, and “the steroids”—wireless access and voice-over IP (Friedman, 2005).  

Florida (2005) disputed this claim, noting that the world’s landscape resembles a topographical map with peaks, hills, and valleys. The tallest peaks are cities and regions that are more developed and growing at a higher rate. These are innovation drivers like China, the United States, Japan, North Korea, and Germany, with 89% of total patents granted in 2020 (Statista, 2020). These areas are fortunate to attract the talent required to promote innovation and growth. They can offer better amenities and cultural climates that appeal to individuals seeking upward mobility (Feiock, 2008).

Unlike peaks, Florida (2005) described hills as “prosperous but insecure.” These cities give way to the world’s manufacturing and service centers; however, they are volatile compared to the peaks, therefore, are subject to decline. The valleys have little to no connection with other territories—creating an unequal world of spikes and valleys. Florida’s theory presents the paradox that the forces that have promoted spikiness are the same forces that Friedman contributes to flattening.

This globalization perspective exposes how spikes pose a competitive edge over hills and valleys. It also highlights how globalization can increase competition for talent amongst developed countries. Such talent is not developed overnight; to transform a local leader into a global leader, they must demonstrate certain characteristics and integrate specific competencies for intercultural leadership. 

During the Annual Meeting 2009, a few select participants were asked, “What characteristics do future leaders need?” This paper aims to assess their opinions on the quality of a future global leader to the intercultural theories presented in this course. Additionally, I will compare how their opinions are similar and dissimilar to those from the course.

Global Leader Challenges

Leadership is an essential part of a successful organization. A leader’s daily activities become exponentially complex when expanded to a global scale. Most domestic leaders have not been trained to deal with a globalized economy. They are challenged with providing leadership at the local, state, national, regional, and international levels to mobilize and organize economically, socially, culturally, and ecologically.

Leaders must transition their traditional thought process to a more global one. This means that leaders need to adopt a global mindset. Global mindsets can be associated with the individual and the organization. A leader with a global mindset has the openness and awareness of diversity across cultures to influence individuals, groups, and organizations across cultures (Beechler & Javidan, 2007; Thunderbird School of Global Management, n.d.). This skill is useful when engaging in cross-cultural interactions. It shows openness and willingness to have intercultural experiences that increase interconnectedness. Arthur G.O. Mutambara reasoned that once a leader understands an interconnection between global issues, they can address it holistically (World Economic Forum, 2009). With a global mindset, leaders can approach challenges from a new or unusual perspective.

A global mindset positions leaders to consider the external factors that impact organizations across regions. These external forces shape the organization’s environment in that area (Bright et al., 2019). A global leader must be attuned to the economic, political, cultural, and environmental variations that could disrupt the organization. These factors can cause direct and indirect effects on organizations beyond their control.

Organizations rely on leaders to resolve conflicts internally and externally. Global leaders are expected to do the same. However, they face more complex dilemmas (Tidwell & Lerche, 2004). They must consider cross-cultural implications for different de-escalation processes, such as negotiation or mediation (Tidwell & Lerche, 2004). Effective conflict resolution can build relationships, achieve goals, enhance commitments, and generate new insight (Imm, 2021).

Wibbeke (2013) stated that miscommunication is the major cause of intercultural conflicts. Communication styles and norms are essential when communicating across barriers. Global communication occurs through the verbal and non-verbal transmission of information and knowledge across cross-cultural constructs. Superior communication skills can shrink the gap between cultures by providing a rudimentary mechanism to collaborate and share ideas.

Without exception, the most notable challenge of a global leader is leading and managing across cultures. At the Annual Meeting 2009, James Quigley, Don Tapscott, and Tom Robertson pointed out characteristics in a leader that are also found in a global leader. They agreed that motivation, teamwork, and vision are some of the traits that make a global leader. However, operationally, leading teams varies widely from culture to culture. Leaders who ignore cultural differences will discover it difficult to effectively build successful teams (HFI, 2016). An effectual global leader has the capability to lead across diverse cultures. Developing global leadership characteristics and competencies takes a conscious effort to curate.

Global Leadership Characteristics

Organizations looking to expand to a transnational market must identify individuals who can lead cross-culturally. Effective leaders in a single locale may not have all the defining characteristics necessary to take on the complexities of cross-cultural management. Several studies provided insight into the essential characteristics of a global leader. This section will highlight three—open-mindedness, emotional intelligence (EQ), and cultural intelligence (CQ).

Open-mindedness is a key characteristic for a leader—domestic or global—however, it becomes essential for a global leader to have flexibility in their thinking. An open-minded leader is more tolerant and adaptable to new situations and cultures. This type of leadership encourages organizational change and reduces resistance to it (Al-Abrrow et al., 2021). With an open mindset, a global leader can listen to, appreciate, and adapt to different ideas (Hassanzadeh et al., 2015). They are open to the best idea—even if it is not an idea of theirs (Hassanzadeh et al., 2015). In the World Economic Forum video, Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries concurred that openness is a fundamental characteristic of a global leader (World Economic Forum, 2009). He provided an example of a leader lacking openness as one who holds their culture above another’s.   

Several leaders at the Annual Meeting 2009 acknowledged that emotional intelligence was a characteristic that future leaders must possess. Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries noted that serious EQ brings out the best in person (World Economic Forum, 2009). Emotionally intelligent leaders know how to identify, understand, and manage their emotions and also understand and monitor the emotions of others (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Don Tapscott, a leader at the Annual Meeting 2009, confirmed that it is important to help people understand their self-interest (World Economic Forum, 2009). They can control their reactions. Leaders like this hardly make impulsive decisions, lash out, or prejudge individuals—this is key for changing or new environments. An emotionally intelligent leader exercises self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2020). They can curate a well-balanced competency in them all (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2020).

Earley & Mosakowski (2004) suggested that cultural intelligence picks up where emotional intelligence leaves off. They theorized that cultural intelligence consists of cognitive, physical, and motivational components. In cross-cultural environments, leaders with these components are effective at decision-making, task performance, and cultural adaptation (Crowne, 2013). According to Mario Monti, a global leader from the Annual Meeting 2009, effective global leaders can learn from their mistakes to avoid repetition (World Economic Forum, 2009).  

Kevin Kelly, CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, summarized global leadership as having an intelligence quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ), cultural quotient (CQ), and humor (World Economic Forum, 2009). He was not the only leader at the conference who felt that cultural quotient (or intelligence) was essential; J. Frank Brown and Victor L.L. Chu acknowledged that intercultural skills prepared future global leaders (World Economic Forum, 2009). 

Building Cultural Intelligence

Unlike technical skills, cultural intelligence is a curated process that requires continuous learning. It is a skill that a global leader must invest in and develop over time. Each interaction can be thought of as a micro-building block to building cultural awareness (Molinsky, 2007).

The basic building blocks to developing cultural intelligence are self-awareness, training, exposure, and re-evaluation. These steps amalgamate Earley and Mosakowski’s (2004) and Molinsky’s (2009a) work on developing cultural intelligence. As previously mentioned, self-awareness is essential to being a global leader. A global leader starts their acculturation journey by assessing their cross-cultural experience (Molinsky, 2009a). Earley and Mosakowski (2004) suggested a 360-degree assessment, while Molinsky offered a situational approach where the individual assesses how they feel in certain situations in a foreign environment (Molinsky, 2009a). Then, they would categorize that experience according to how authentic and competent they felt. It would then fall into one of four categories: natural, authenticity-based discomfort, competence-based discomfort, or noxiousness (Molinsky, 2009a). 

Once areas of improvement are identified, training should be selected that improves their weaknesses. This training better serves the global leader if done in a broader framework. Generalized training promotes inclusive and productive cultural diversity and erodes perpetuating generational and cultural stereotypes (SHRM, 2015). Training allows individuals to practice what they learned. They could range from workshops to cross-functional group activities to mock real-world situations (Molinsky, 2009b). In some instances, targeted training is required, such as culture-specific negotiations. However, if not approached with an open mind, it could be mistaken as an over-simplification of a specific culture.

According to J. Frank Brown and Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, participants at the Annual Meeting 2009 in Davos, Switzerland, consider the exposure stage an integral part of the cultural development process. During this stage, leaders tune their ability to cross-culturally code-switch—modifying their behavior to fit the cultural norms (Molinsky, 2007). Code-switching forces an unnatural behavior on the individual (Molinsky, 2007). Over time and through frequent interactions, an individual will feel more authentic and competent.

The final step in the development process is re-evaluation. The rising global leader should conduct another self-assessment to evaluate how effectively they developed their new skill. It would behoove them to collect 360 feedback from colleagues and associated individuals. A 360-degree feedback assessment is where reactions are given from superiors and subordinates, in addition to a self-evaluation. This assessment will provide a more holistic perspective of areas to improve (Earley & Mosakowski, 2004).

The attributes that make up a global leader include those that create an interculturalist. An interculturalist aims to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding (Souza, 2020). As global leadership increases, the importance of a leader’s sensitivity to cultural differences also increases (Pusch, 2009). Often, they will be called up to bridge differences, consider different perspectives, and offer unique life experiences. A successful interculturally competent global leader can achieve a view that transcends their culture and is concocted from complex cross-cultural interactions (Pusch, 2009). Interculturalist know how to communicate effectively, explore different cultures, and manage environments even when there are subcultures to navigate, all while regulating personal emotions (Pusch, 2009).

Global Leader Competencies

A global leader must be able to operate in diverse and complex environments (Hassanzadeh et al., 2015). It is beneficial for a leader to have certain leadership skills and behaviors to fulfill their duties as an international lead. Wibbeke (2013) proposed the Geoleadership Model, which describes the seven competencies that form the foundation for intercultural leadership. With these competencies, a global leader can face the challenges of managing a cross-cultural group and diverse business processes and policies.

Care

Global corporations are starting to incorporate the triple bottom line—profit, people, planet—into their sustainability framework (Elkington, 2018). Companies are moving past the outdated corporate regime, which focuses solely on profit. As a corporation become interconnected, it must consider its social and ecological footprint. H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway agrees that growing the company’s earnings is a means to an end. The goal is to create something positive for others (World Economic Forum, 2009). A successful global leader yields time to understand the cultures they will impact before making decisions (Wibbeke, 2013). Victor L. L. Chu, from the Annual Meeting 2009, believes global leaders should be deeply conscious of their social responsibility (World Economic Forum, 2009).

Communication

Leaders connect with people through meaningful communication. Intercultural communication can provide the same benefit, but a keen understanding of communication is essential (Wibbeke, 2013). Kevin Kelly suggested that humor is a favorable ingredient for global leadership; however, humor does not always translate well (World Economic Forum, 2009). Navigating cross-cultural communication requires leaders to step outside their comfort zone, albeit literally or figuratively, to experience the minority’s position (Wibbeke, 2013). This includes familiarizing themselves with cultural gestures and rituals to understand expected behavior in various situations (Wibbeke, 2013).

Consciousness

Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence. Cultural awareness is a key component of cultural intelligence. It is this awareness of self and surroundings that leads to consciousness. A mindful, curious, and observant leader, from an objective perspective, has a high level of consciousness (Wibbeke, 2013). This consciousness aids when understanding the interdependences between countries and communities (Mutambara, World Economic Forum, 2009).

Contrasts

Developing consciousness may reveal cultural differences that may present ambiguous situations outside the leader’s comfort zone. This phenomenon requires an ambiguity tolerance—a comfort level of ambiguity (Wibekke, 2013). Mario Monti suggested that intercultural leaders avoid uniformity (World Economic Forum, 2009). Thinking in a “herd” way prevents leaders from seeing cultural bias and considering different ideas.

Context

Cultural misunderstandings can frequently occur if the cultural context is not understood beforehand. Every culture can be categorized into either a high-context or low-context culture. High-context cultures typically have a long-standing relationship, and there is much-inferred information. Low-context cultures typically have many relationships over a short time; therefore, the inference is difficult to understand. The information must be explicitly communicated for understanding. Individuals may default to their cultural context without understanding cultural context, which may contrast, leading to misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Change

Acculturation provides ample opportunities for a leader to adapt to a dynamic environment (Wibbeke, 2013). Learning agility is the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions. Mario Monti offered that global leaders show adaptability by learning from their mistakes and adjusting to avoid repetition (World Economic Forum, 2009). New cultures bring new learning experiences, and with every learning experience, there will be some mistakes. A leader evolves through these encounters and builds an arsenal of commonalities to prepare them for future occurrences.

Capability

A part of a leader’s role is to recognize where there is a deficit and assess their capabilities and the capabilities of others to mitigate the deficit. As an intercultural leader, organizational capability is key to sustainability (Wibbeke, 2013). Leveraging human, structural, intellectual, and customer capital to build intercultural relationships defines a global leader’s ability to build capability (Wibbeke, 2013).

Conclusion

With the rise of globalization, the requirements to be an effective leader have risen. This paper has explored the challenges that can arise from globalization. It also discussed the characteristics and competencies required to overcome these challenges. Developing these characteristics and competencies requires self-assessment, practice, exposure, and feedback. A global leader must continuously develop their geoleadership competencies to truly evolve as a global leader.

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