Leading a small group of employees is challenging enough, but what if your company has offices all over the world? How do you step up and lead on such a large and diverse scale? In many ways, goodleadership transcends culture and language barriers, but there are certain characteristics that global leaders have mastered that sets them apart from the rest. It’s a mindset that can only be developed over time and with specific intention.
To think like a global leader, you must be:
Flexible: This is a major asset for global leaders because the ground is always shifting beneath their feet, and those shifts can be even more complicated when they’re not familiar with the lay of the land. Think about how quickly a market or economy can change. Now imagine that it’s not your home turf. Being able to quickly adapt to international fluctuations is key for global leaders to consistently keep their heads in the game and respond thoughtfully and appropriately, when plans can change in an instant.
Sensitive. Sensitivity is a greatly undervalued leadership quality no matter what a company’s size and scope, but it’s essential for global leadership. The age of being respected for being an uncompromising hardliner is over. Today’s global economy demands leaders who can bring everyone to the table and let all voices be heard. Whether global leaders step into their own headquarters or an office halfway around the world, they’re inclusive toward all their employees and attuned to the markets they’re serving. It will never be a one-size-fits-all approach for global leaders, and they embrace that challenge with an open mind.
A clear communicator. This may be an obvious skill for any leader, but it’s vital for a global leader and goes far beyond language. A successful global leader is constantly aware of not only the words they’re using, but their physical mannerisms and tone as well. Delivering a message will always vary by country and culture, and global leaders know how to communicate with a higher level of sophistication. Age, gender, and other social factors will always come into play on a global stage. Good leaders know how to use them to their advantage.
Culturally adept. This goes beyond just awareness of the people and customs. It’s an internalization of who they are and what they value. Cultural adeptness stems from being open and respectful toward other countries’ mentalities and approaches to work, as well as how it ties into their personal lives. We’re all working toward something — sometimes great, sometimes small — and global leaders don’t let themselves become biased toward another culture even when it greatly differs from their own. They submerge themselves in the culture they’re in and treat everyone equally.
For many up-and-coming global leaders — especially millennials — the desire to make a significant impact in their communities is their primary motivation for ascending the corporate ladder. The ambitious climb from individual contributor to manager to senior leadership is never easy, and achieving global leader status is even more elusive. But like any skill, it just takes practice, and thinking like a global leader is no different.