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Developing Global Leaders

January 24th, 2012 by Steve Barry
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Five years ago, we projected the business and leadership challenges of 2012.

One trend that caught my eye was Bridging Divides;  people of different cultures, geographies, and organizations working together as a cohesive unit. As multinational corporations seek growth in new geographies, many try to standardize practices in regions overseas that are derived from, and are successful in, their own culture.  A 2007 Conference Board study, “Painting with Two Brushes,” revealed why this is a risky approach:

97.2 percent of Western leaders, as compared to 70.6 percent of leaders from Asia-based Asian companies, find leadership skills transferable between different geographies. Similarly, 68 percent of Western leaders, compared to 91 percent of leaders of Asia-based Asian companies, feel global business leadership differs from business leadership due to managing culturally diverse people and operations.

This naturally begs the question, “What do good global leaders do?”   Two Swedish professors answered the call.  In their recent Harvard Business Review article, they illustrated qualities successful global leaders must possess, based on discussions with 30 CEOs. The overarching principles the professors discovered included establishing a higher purpose to make employees feel emotionally engaged and inspire them to work hard and respond to local communities to become a valued insider. They also found creating an internal social fabric enabling good collaboration across borders and levels contributed to leaders’ success. Additionally, from their discussions with the CEOs, the professors outlined common characteristics such as reliability, having high expectations, communication and team building that drove success.

While leaders themselves enrich their global skills, the U.S. remains the leading country in global innovation. The GE Global Innovation Barometer, which surveys nearly 3,000 U.S. and foreign business executives about innovation, published its most recently rankings last week and put the U.S. as a top country in innovation. Experts, however, wondered how long the U.S. would remain at the top. According to survey findings, factors such as continued deterioration of education, federal cutbacks in R&D funding and the ongoing loss off high-tech manufacturing jobs to nations with lower cost structures prompted concerns that the high honors might not remain for long.

Even as the U.S. continues to set the pace for innovation, one of the world’s top photography brands succumbed last week. New York-based Kodak Jan. 19 filed for bankruptcy, but experts say a new strategic trend called “convergences” could have saved the company. As a FORTUNE piece details, convergences “gives leaders a deeper sense of the interdependencies that connect firms, products, systems and services in new ecosystems.” It tests old notions to generate new ideas and uses visualization technologies to reveal emergences of new opportunities. Perhaps an offshoot of the ‘bridging divides’ trend, this seems to have the potential to show companies their next big growth opportunity.

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3 Responses to “Developing Global Leaders”

  1. Chris says:

    I can’t believe kodack have filed for bankruptcy I been buying their photographic stuff for years, I obviously was the only one:( RIP Kodak.

  2. Dyan says:

    Nice piece Steve! It is the global companies that understand the nuances in various regions that come out ahead – those that respond the local culture and service to that culture.

  3. forumcorp says:

    Thanks Dyan. You certainly have a unique vantage point as an American in Europe – any examples come to mind from your perspective?

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