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Being an Effective Global Leader

December 8, 2014
Borderless Leadership

By Marshall Goldsmith

This week’s question for Ask the Coach:
My company is stretching into areas of the world I’ve barely heard of — we are definitely broaching the unknown. As a leader, what do I need to be successful as globalization changes the rules of the game?

MG: To help me answer this question, I contacted Maya Hu-Chan of the Global Leadership Development Center at Alliant University’s Marshall Goldsmith School of Management. Maya is an international management consultant and certified executive coach who specializes in global leadership, executive coaching, and cross-cultural business skills. Maya and I co-authored Global Leadership: The Next Generation, from which we learned much about facing the challenges of globalization.

First, we learned that globalization is here to stay. It has proliferated into our daily lives. It is not only organizations that are going global; it is individuals, families, and friends. For instance, you may call computer support from your home in San Diego and reach a technical assistant in India; or your son may reach out to a video game creator in Germany and become Facebook friends with a whole slew of Europeans over night. Disney was right; it is a small world after all!

Second, we learned that today’s global leaders build partnerships. As the organization standardizes and integrates its operations worldwide, leaders are required to align themselves with supply chains which may appear seamless in a strategic plan but which, in reality, involve real people with diverse cultural backgrounds and communication styles. The new organizational prototype demands new individual skills to meet this complexity; it presents planning and communication challenges requiring new tools in response.

I asked maya, what to elaborate on her experience in coaching leaders to build global partnerships. Here is her response:

MH: A foundational element for any global leader is the need to look at the big picture while at the same time consulting with key stakeholders at every level. A recent client of mine, a Thai vice president with a high-tech multinational, faced exactly this dynamic. As his coach, I helped him to approach this duality with cultural sensitivity and awareness, using the appropriate communication approach to get the message across.

Since his outreach spanned not only hierarchy but continents, his strategy would have to meet the complexity of the landscape. He began his first management initiative by interviewing his supervisor, and then his boss’s supervisor, clarifying short and long-term goals by asking questions like “what’s our mission?” and “what’s our strategy?” From there he consulted with his team, planned a two-day retreat, and followed up with regular virtual staff meetings spanning Asia, the United States, and Latin America. The result was to clarify the group’s direction by being specific about what they want to accomplish.

In some ways, the work of equipping global leaders is that of creating more “un-CEOs.” New leaders are those who are adept at building partnerships, both one-to-one and one-to-many, as a matter of habit. They emphasize horizontal leadership such as peer coaching, for example, to help project stakeholders help each other.

In my work with multinational corporations, my global clients have often pointed out that building partnerships is one of the most important competencies for global leaders of the future. Leaders have to successfully build trusting and long-term strategic relationships, internally and externally, and leverage those relationships, in order to get the job done.

Finally, remember to be curious about other cultures and enjoy the challenges of communicating in a competitive, fast-paced global business environment.

MG: Thank you Maya! It has been a pleasure answering this question with you. Readers, Maya can be reached at mhu-chan@alliant.edu. Please leave your comments about globalization and how to be an effective global leader.

Source: Harvard Business Review

(Note: You may need to register for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review in order to read the article from the source)

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