Sunday, September 15, 2013

How Are We Developing Future Global Leaders?

In a brilliant 2012 article Katherine Holt and Kyoko Seki highlight how people everywhere are asking what it takes to be an effective global leader in the 21st Century. In the past, they tended to look at the United States for guidance, but those days are gone. Although US-based organisations and consulting firms still have disproportionate influence through the competency models they promulgate, many of those models are under siege, particular those that idealise a particular type of leader.
In the epic Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) Study they found twenty-two universally desirable leader characteristics such as; trustworthy, encouraging, decisive and communicative.
They also found eight that were universally undesirable including asocial, non-cooperative, egocentric and dictatorial.
Interestingly they found thirty-five traits that were culturally contingent, including enthusiastic, logical, micromanager and risk taker.
As Holt and Seki highlight “with all the shifts happening in the world and in our workforce, we need new types of global leaders to help organisations navigate the complexity of change. We need to collaborate with other disciplines to create leadership models and training tools that will equip global leaders to master new challenges. We also need to step up as global leaders ourselves,” (p.34).
Holt and Seki argue that four shifts are required to help shape effective global leaders;
1) Cultivating the ‘being’ dimension of human experience. Where ‘doing’ is what we do, while ‘being’ is who we are, which is experienced by others as the atmosphere we create. Inter-culturalists estimate that as much as 93% of message interpretation relies on nonverbal channels. Where cultivating the being dimension requires us to get in touch with our identity as well as our energetic presence, and then behaving in more congruent and authentic ways.
2) Developing multicultural effectiveness. While there is no consensus about what intercultural effectiveness means, it involves the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural situations, along with adapting one’s behaviour to each cultural context – and it also involves appreciating differences and being humble about what we do not know.
3) Appreciating individual uniqueness, in the context of cultural differences. It is well documented that national cultures differ on various dimensions. For example, the United States is high on individualism and low on long-term orientation, whereas Japan is high on both masculinity and uncertainty avoidance, and low on individualism. Leaders must pay attention to the uniqueness of each individual to understand and take advantage of their motivation. Where we need to adopt a holistic perspective that focuses on someone completely, not just their job or country of origin; but we must try to understand each person’s unique strengths as well as their multi-layered cultural identities.
4) Becoming adept at managing paradoxes. According to an article in the Academy of Management Review, Wendy Smith and Marianne Lewis describe paradoxes as ‘contradictory yet interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time’.
Katherine Holt and Kyoko Seki identified ten paradoxes facing global leaders;
a) Strategic and Operational;
b) Take Charge and Empowering;
c) Results and Relationships;
d) Listening and Expressing;
e) Global and Local;
f) Common Group and Uniqueness;
g) Open Minded and Decisiveness;
h) Consistency and Versatility;
i) Humility and Confidence;
j) Doing and Being.
These paradoxes are not just unique to global leaders, in fact many leaders struggle with results and relationships; and listening and expressing. But Katherine and Kyoto’s main point is that “we should try to understand how paradoxes play important roles in our own cultures and organisations and then find ways to strengthen people’s paradoxical mindset and capabilities to deal with them.”
What’s fascinating in this debate about the future of global leadership, is that one could be fooled at thinking this is something new, but ‘we’ have been involved in global trade for centuries and there are many successful global leaders around today – and maybe to save a bit of time we should ask today’s global leaders about what they have learned about ‘success’ in the job – the do’s and don’ts.
We sometimes feel the need to develop something from scratch when the ‘blueprint’ already exists. Also we can sometimes think too deep about the topic losing sight of the simplicity of leadership in its rawest form – which is about motivating employees to follow you towards a predetermined vision in the most optimal way; and hence as the leader or potential leader asking yourself – in my current context what do I need to do and what do I need to learn to allow me to reach that goal.
In conclusion Katherine Holt and Kyoko Seki mention that “the world has a desperate need for better global leaders to navigate all the complex and ambiguous challenges that lie ahead. And professional educators must take responsibility for creating better global leaders in our organisations – starting with developing ourselves as global leaders,” (p.37).
Holt, K. and Seki, K. (2012). Global Leadership Begins With Learning Professionals. Training and Development, May, p.33-37.

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