Leadership Competencies Required to Become a Global Leader
Globalization can simply be described as the process of increased interconnectedness among countries most notably in the areas of economics, politics and culture. Friedman et al, (2011) refers to globalization as the integrated and interdependent nature of the world’s economy, culture, political agendas, and educational systems. As our world becomes ‘one village’ and globalization increases, businesses are changing strategies and operational procedures which are dependent on leaders to deploy and implement.
Global leadership has been defined as being capable of operating effectively in a global environment while being respectful of cultural diversity (Harris, Moran, & Moran, 2004, p.25). Global leaders are individuals who effect significant positive change in organizations by building communities through the development of trust and arrangement of organizational structures and processes in the context involving multiple cross-boundary stakeholders, multiple sources of external cross-boundary authority, and multiple cultures under conditions of temporal, geographical and culture complexity (Mendenhall 2008:17).
Leadership competencies are leadership skills and behaviors that contribute to superior performance. There has been a considerable effort to identify the global leadership competencies that can be learned as well as the most effective learning and development methods for learning them (Tubbs & Schulz, 2006). For the purpose of this study, I have aligned 5 research papers to come up with the global leadership competencies listed below.
Global Leadership Competencies
Bird’s (2013) framework of nested global leadership competencies has three broad categories with fifteen different competencies – that is five in each category. The three categories are (a) competencies of business and organizational acumen, (b) competencies of managing people and relationships, and (c) competence of managing self.
- Business and organizational acumen
- Vision and strategic thinking – this competency is characterized by first the ability to understand and act in complex and strategic settings, characterized by dimensions such as intellectual intelligence, short and long term thinking, and seeing the interdependent aspects of strategic thinking. Secondly, is the development and articulation of a global vision for an organization and finally is the development and implementation of strategic plans.
- Business savvy – this competency encompasses two types of knowledge and an attitude and is characterized primarily as knowledge based competency. The two types of knowledge are general business savvy and technical oriented knowledge. Bird (2013) describes the attitude as a value added orientation incorporating entrepreneurialism and creativity.
- Managing communities – this competency is centered on the global leaders’ ability to succeed within the vast network of relationships required in today’s global workforce. The three dimensions of this competency include skills to span boundaries, influence stakeholders and accomplish strategic objectives.
- Organizational savvy – this competency consists of the ability to design organizational structures and processes in ways that facilitate global effectiveness and ability to perform effectively within an organization.
- Leading change – this competency results from the instrumental application of all previous competencies in business and organizational acumen. Bird (2013 p. 90) sums it up as “the primary thrust of global leadership is to bring about change”.
- Managing people and relationships
- Valuing people – this competency encompasses showing respect for people and their differences, understanding the emotions and motivations of others on a deeper level and creating and maintaining trusting relationships.
- Interpersonal skills – this includes emotional intelligence, sensitivity, engagement and self-awareness. It also involves relationship management skills that include behaviors such as influencing, listening and using relationships for result oriented purposes.
- Cross-cultural communication – this competency is divided into general cultural awareness where both one’s own culture as well as the culture of those with whom the global leader works and specific cognitive and behavioral skills in an intercultural context.
- Empowering others – this competency addresses talents such as motivating direct reports, colleagues and superiors by increasing self-efficacy within the relationships. It also incorporates skills related to coaching, instructing, personal and professional development, and delegation of authority.
- Teaming skills – this competency refers to working effectively in multicultural and global teams, as well as being able to both lead and take subordinate roles in global teams.
- Managing self
- Resilience – this competency refers to ability to cope with the highly stressful challenges of leading across multiple time zones, large distances, myriad cultures, and widely varying national systems. It is characterized by dimensions of optimism, hardiness, and stress reduction, attitudinal facets such as resourcefulness and self-confidence and behavioral skills such as healthy lifestyle choices and work life balance.
- Character – this competency can be narrowed down to integrity, maturity and conscientiousness.
- Inquisitiveness – Bird ((2013) argues that this is the most essential personal quality of global leaders and it refers to an innate curiosity, an openness to learn and humility. It means not letting pride or self-consciousness interfere with the learning process (allowing oneself to be taught by others).
- Global mindset – this refers to the complex melding of new perspectives, attitudes and knowledge within a global context. This is broken down by Bird (2013) into two facets; (a) cognitive complexity, specifically a highly contextualized, multifaceted, multilayered approach to the environment and cosmopolitanism, or interest in knowledge of the greater world.
- Flexibility – this involves willingness to adapt and adjust to varied situations. Bird (2013) describes it as both a cognitive and behavioral component. The cognitive component is intellectual flexibility marked by tolerance for ambiguity, while the behavioral component is behavioral flexibility, indicating a willingness to adapt behaviors to fit the demand of the situation.
While leadership competencies are the same for domestic and global leaders, certain competencies are more critical for global leaders and the proficiency level typically increases. Also global leaders require a unique set of competencies which is important to lead in diverse environments.
Bird, A. (2013). Mapping the content domain of global leadership competencies. In M. E. Mendenhall, J. S. Osland, A. Bird, G. R. Oddou, M. Maznevski, M. J. Stevens, & G. K. Stahl (Eds.), Global leadership: Research, practice and development (2nd ed.; pp. 80-96). New York, NY: Routledge.
Friedman, T. L., & Mandelbaum, M. (2011). That used to be us: How America fell behind in the world it invented and how we can come back. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Harris, P. R., Moran, R. T., & Moran, S. V. (2004). Managing cultural differences – global leadership strategies for the 21st century (6th ed.). Oxford: ButterworthHeinemann/Elsevier.
Mendenhall. M. Eâ€ž Osland. J. Sâ€ž Bird, A.. Oddou, G. R., & Maznevski, M. L (2008). Global leadership: Research, practice, and development. London and New York: Routledge.
Tubbs, S.L., & Schulz, E. (2006). Exploring a taxonomy of global leadership competencies and meta-competencies [electronic version]. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 8, 29.