Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

What is global leadership?

Learn about global leadership and the skills that future business leaders need to be successful global leaders, including developing a Global Mindset

Published: Jan 27, 2023 10:37:15 AM IST
Updated: Jan 27, 2023 10:44:52 AM IST

What is global leadership?Global leaders are next-generation leaders who expertly navigate the international landscape, create cross-culture connections, and foster growth for businesses and communities around the world. Image: Shutterstock

We live in an increasingly global world with fewer distinctions between borders. Everything from trade and finances to entertainment and culture quickly span the globe, making a Global Mindset a necessity for success. This extends to cultivating a Global Mindset and approach to leadership, especially if you want to distinguish yourself in today’s business world.

Exactly what is global leadership, why is it important, and how can you set yourself up with the skills to be successful? Let’s take a closer look at these questions and the topic of global leadership as it applies to future business leaders.

Global Leadership Definition

If you ask five people for their definition of global leadership, you are likely to receive five different answers all related to one’s ability to interact with diverse groups of people.

While this is true, global leadership must go beyond interaction to the ability to influence individuals from diverse backgrounds. This distinction is the difference between a leader and a leader that effectively operates in a complex environment that spans national and cultural lines.
Global Leadership Requires Developing a Global Mindset

Global leaders are next-generation leaders who expertly navigate the international landscape, create cross-culture connections, and foster growth for businesses and communities around the world.

Global leading incorporates the traits of the traditional leader with a Global Mindset. Developing a Global Mindset starts with the ability to communicate a clear vision, think strategically, and inspire cooperation. To be a global leader, you must be able to navigate the challenges and harness the opportunities that arise within a dynamic, international ecosystem.

Skills Needed to Be an Effective Global Leader

In addition to classic leadership skills, a global leader must:

  •     Think globally and fully understand the connected and interdependent nature of our world.
  •     Have a deep understanding of global and regional business environments.
  •     Fully understand world markets, trends, and the connection between them.
  •     Understand and develop strategies to overcome international challenges.
  •     Understand how to identify and leverage international opportunities.
  •     Recognize the importance of culture on business, human behavior, teamwork, work ethics, and goal setting.
  •     Expertly communicate with people from vastly different backgrounds, social norms, languages, and life experiences.
  •     Actively listen and have empathy for those with a completely different worldview.
  •     Have strong organizational leadership skills.

Why is Global Leadership Important?

The value of global trade increased to a record-breaking $7.7 trillion in the first quarter of 2022, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Global trade includes the trade of goods as well as services. This illustrates the growing interdependence between nations for the import and export of manufactured goods, skills, and services.

It also demonstrates that as we continue to move in a global direction, more leaders that are equipped to handle the challenges that come with the territory are needed.

Also read: Good communication skills can help build business

Leveraging Cross-Cultural Business

Global leadership and the ability to leverage cross-cultural business will become increasingly vital for organizations and communities in years to come.

Global leaders will play a significant role in cultivating success for organizations of all kinds. For the business world, global leadership will make the difference between growth or losing ground to companies better equipped for the international landscape. This extends past the ability to navigate the obstacles of foreign business environments to a company’s success in using talent from around the world.

What Are the Characteristics of a Global Leader?

A global point of view will be increasingly vital for understanding the marketplace, developing business strategies, identifying trends, and optimizing opportunities. A global leader must have the ability to communicate with others in a way that inspires action and cooperation.

Cultivating these skills will require strategic thinking, the ability to solve complex problems, and the following characteristics:

  •     Resilience and flexibility
  •     Heightened self-awareness
  •     Comfort with uncertainty and change
  •     Adaptability in thought and action
  •     Empathy and cultural sensitivity
  •     Long-term thinking
  •     Open-mindedness
  •     Ethical value

Deep Cultural Knowledge is Vital

Global leaders need to recognize and be sensitive to the strong ties that connect a country’s culture to its business practices, marketplace, and people. This requires an intimate understanding of a country’s culture and history.

Being multilingual or having overseas experience in work, school, or travel is also valuable. While knowing how to speak other languages in business is helpful, even if you don’t, having deep cultural knowledge is vital.

Also read: Live abroad to excel in the language of leadership

How Do You Prepare To Be a Global Leader?

Global-minded leaders are needed sooner rather than later, which creates an interesting challenge for organizations and individuals alike. While global leadership is important and involves a unique skill set, the steps to obtain those skills might seem uncertain. Spending years traveling, learning languages, and looking for cross-cultural work opportunities can be effective, but may not be practical.

  • Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself to become a global leader, such as:
  •     Improve your world knowledge including geography, culture, and history. Pay special attention to the relationships between countries as this can have a significant impact on trade, business, and interpersonal communications.
  •     Consider learning a new language or learning basic language skills within several languages. You do not have to become fluent to benefit, even learning the basics can provide deeper knowledge and appreciation for the language and culture.
  •     Consume media from around the world to expand your viewpoint of world events, everyday happenings, and cultural norms. This can include news, television, movies, music, and podcasts.
  •     Read books and articles that focus on general leadership and global leadership topics.
  •     Work on your communication skills including interpersonal communication, cross-cultural communication, and conflict resolution.
  •     Travel abroad and be sure to incorporate some non-tourist activities into your itinerary to  get a better feel for the people and culture of the area.
  •     Look for local opportunities to engage with communities that represent a broad range of cultures.

[This article has been reproduced with permission from Knowledge Network, the online thought leadership platform for Thunderbird School of Global Management]