We all know people who seem to be natural-born global leaders. It’s as if they have an innate ability to connect to anyone, across many cultures. Global leaders inspire their teams to contribute their best ideas, maximize everyone’s contributions, and motivate their workers to be as productive and as effective as possible. Regardless of whatever challenges lie ahead, they’re always ready, willing, and able to lead their multicultural teams to success.
But global leaders aren’t born with these skills. That’s right. Global leadership is learned, as is working with different cultures. This means just about anyone who has already developed some necessary leadership skills can (and should!) become an exceptional global leader.
A Call for Global Leaders at All Levels of an Organization
In today’s globally oriented, knowledge-based, and often virtual business landscape, leaders spend a lot of time eliciting intellectual contributions from their teams. But different work preferences, values, and other cultural distinctions can make it difficult for people to feel comfortable contributing their ideas. Effective leadership is required to get teams of diverse individuals to work effectively toward a common goal.
Still, research has shown that only 50% of organizations make it a priority to develop leaders’ global skills. What’s more, only a third describe their efforts as effective. To help close this gap, talented individuals who are competent in their jobs and have basic leadership skills should recognize the opportunity to develop their global skills and competencies.
From high-level management to a one-time project that involves a cross-cultural team, global leadership skills are required at all levels of an organization. In fact, it has been found that global leadership development that begins with first-level leaders is more effective than waiting for contenders to reach higher leadership levels. This means there’s no time to waste waiting to be “invited” to lead. The time to step up is now!
Global Leadership 101
Put simply, excellent global leadership involves being able to identify and maximize one’s abilities as a leader, recognize and adapt to the various demands of a diverse global workforce, and retain the unique perspectives and talents of a team in a collaborative way.
Before getting started, it’s important to note that there’s no universal model of global leadership or a fixed pattern of behavior. Leadership styles and behaviors are as varied as individuals themselves. For example, some of the most effective leaders have been purveyors of great ideas, while others have achieved success by being excellent facilitators for other people’s contributions.
Despite varying leadership behaviors, research has been able to identify two consistent traits of great leadership: self-awareness and authenticity. To be transparent and inspiring, leaders must be genuine; through careful introspection, they must learn to see themselves as others see them.
Global leadership skills-building is very much a lifelong learning process. Great leaders are constantly honing their skills and bringing their valuable experiences and insights to future challenges. The more they know, the more they’ll be able to see patterns emerge, and the more global leadership will begin to make sense. They’ll be in a better position to adjust their expectations, attitudes, and actions to significantly enhance their–and their organizations’–chances of success in today’s highly competitive international business arena.
To help shift the concept of global leadership from a nebulous state into a defined learning path, we’ve designed the RW3 Global Leadership Model. The model integrates leadership theory and cultural fluency into a holistic discipline to help you become the leader you were meant to be. It helps you learn to capitalize on your strengths while working on the areas you want to improve.
The RW3 Global Leadership Model helps you understand why behaviors vary across cultures and individuals, and it provides tactics to assure success in spite of new challenges. After teaching how to gain self-awareness and authenticity, the model helps you develop a global mindset–or the ability to integrate a sense of deep cultural awareness so you can intuitively adapt your style to your team’s cultural requirements without compromising your business’ goals and values.
Finally, the model shows you how to build trust and enable collaboration across your cross-cultural team. Without a trusting, supportive environment, it’s far less likely teams will feel comfortable taking the intellectual risks required to turn brilliant ideas into action. Trust is central to creating an atmosphere in which people feel empowered to do their best work and collaborate with folks from vastly different cultural backgrounds.
As organizations become more globally oriented and the nature of leadership changes from managing processes to enabling individuals to be their best, global leadership is becoming more important than ever. Fortunately, leaders can be developed. With proper training, almost anyone can become an excellent global leader, leading teams to high performance, guiding organizations toward success, and maximizing one’s own career opportunities along the way.