What makes a great global leader?

Is it experience? Is it sensitivity? Is it world travel? Is it a graduate degree from a top- name university? The fact is that all—or none—of these may impact any individual’s effectiveness as a global leader.

By definition, a great global leader, of course, must have strong leadership skills. Some of those are innate, some are learned, and some are intuited through global experience.

Based on research of effective leaders, though, one characteristic is clear: self-awareness.

So, what is self-awareness? It’s the ability to understand how your behavior as a leader is perceived by others, impacts others, and conveys values that people can ascribe to.

This may sound simple, but it isn’t. Gaining self-awareness is complex and requires time. It also demands a degree of maturity.

Gratefully, there’s a process you can follow. It requires introspection into your life and the events and people who have shaped you. It’s an appreciation of your own values and deeply held beliefs because, like it or not, these emanate from leaders. No matter where someone is in the world, followers can identify the sincerity and authenticity of their leaders. People will enthusiastically follow a leader who conveys integrity and authenticity, who can be trusted and whose value system is strong enough to withstand organizational stress and the buffeting that comes from a variety of unexpected challenges.

A great global leader can convey authenticity in a culturally appropriate manner and can gain the trust, respect and admiration of a variety of people, regardless of the behavioral style appropriate to the culture. The same person can be effective in both a hierarchical, authoritative culture as well as in an egalitarian one. That leader can exude a degree of authority and control while maintaining a credible degree of humility as required by the environment. The same leader can maintain unquestioned authority in an egalitarian society while remaining open to debate and challenge.

The reason they can do this is because they are authentic and self-aware. They know what their values are and what’s important to them. Their followers can appreciate that regardless of the culture they come from.

How do you gain that degree of insight? It can begin with something as simple as a “life map” that traces the events in your life that have shaped your values. The people you admired, the teachers who set examples, the business leaders who inspired you from your earliest cognitive years—they all had a role in shaping who you are.

It is relatively easy to start the self-discovery journey, but once you get into it, you begin to discover things that have influenced you which you never realized before. For instance, you might discover that a distant relative has made an indelible imprint on your personal style because of his or her courage, emotional support, or a memorable event. You begin to focus on the influences your parents and teachers had on you. In other words, on those people who engaged your interest and were able to help you do things you didn’t know you could, and thus influenced your management style.

Try it.

The development “notepad” and Life Map pictured below are taken from CultureWizard’s Global Leadership Course.

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