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  • Writer's pictureMarie Tseng

How do Global Leaders develop?

Diversity and cross-cultural training programs are not always a priority for companies, even when employees are working in a multicultural environment. Many skeptics deny the impact of local cultures on organizational cultures, minimize the importance of national cultures in people’s interactions (“After all, we are all the same”) and believe that being exposed to people of different backgrounds is sufficient to become culturally competent. A new research conducted by Steve Terrell, Doctor in Human Resources Development at the George Washington University highlights how Global leaders develop and the importance of learning and training in order to be prepared for global challenges. Dr.Terell interviewed global leaders from 6 major industries (from pharmaceutical, to consumer products and financial services) and focused on:

  • What Global leaders experience

  • What they learn that contributes to their development as global leaders

  • How they learn

There are two essential aspects in developing global leadership qualities.

First, cultural sensitivity: global leaders have an openness to different environments and cultures; they appreciate and value cultural differences and take the time to understand different views and perspectives without being judgmental.

Second, people skills: they invest time in developing and maintaining relationships and networks. They highly value what they can learn from others; they are patient and seek to understand the people with whom they interact from the beginning.

Based on his findings, Terell identified 6 factors that contribute to the development of global leaders:

  1. the importance of cultural awareness, being curious of other modes of thinking and being sensitive to other cultures

  2. the ability to leave one’s comfort zone, be flexible and deal with ambiguity in a foreign environment to develop a global mindset

  3. learning by observing and reflecting on their direct experiences

  4. connecting with people in an authentic and humble manner

  5. passion, resilience and tolerance as key qualities of global leaders

  6. people leadership skills across culture.

How one approaches a cross-cultural encounter will highly affect how much one gains from that experience. Global leaders are curious and have a great desire to learn about other cultures. They will discover, explore and find out about other cultures before working and interacting with people from different cultures. When engaged in multicultural dealings, they will observe and take mental notes of people’s behaviour as well as organization’s dynamics. Finally, Global leaders take time to reflect on their experiences, analyse their actions so that they can quickly recognize similar situations in the future and adapt quickly. Although it has been recognized that Global leaders who have been exposed to multicultural environments for a longer period of time develop better skills, these same leaders and managers are the ones who acknowledge the value of awareness and training programs, in order to develop and sharpen Cross Cultural Competences and skills.

Any company that has a multicultural work force should nurture and develop cross-cultural competences in their employees.

This can be done through:

  • Cultural awareness programs - Both formal and informal

  • Assessing cultural competence of individuals and teams

  • Offering personal development programs to build cultural competences

  • Offering training in cross-cultural management and communication to multicultural teams.

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