The higher your function, the more difference you can make in your community. Becoming a Global Business Leader is no longer something only very few aspire to and, in fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Global Shapers Community Survey most people in their 20s and 30s now seek career advancement above quality in an employer.
It is said that you should always start with the end in mind. And if you count yourself amongst those hoping to become a Global Business Leader, it is never too early to begin preparations for your future. Whilst the global economy might move ahead very quickly, remain volatile and even though diverse thinking and perspectives are very much the order of the future, the skills that form the basis of excellent leadership have happily remained unchanging through the ages – and are also consistent across regional, national and subnational boundaries.
What is a Global Business Leader?
Global Business Leaders are an emerging class of professionals, adept at operating in both international and multicultural context. They have a global mindset, are driven to create new solutions, seize opportunities and, as global citizens, are inspired to contribute to the communities they touch. Their visionary initiatives and organisations span national boundaries and they recognise the impact of their actions on surrounding communities and constituencies.
They usually choose a flexible academic career, are prepared to deal with economic downturns and have gained exposure to other cultures whilst nurturing their communication skills. This often equips them to move easily between government positions, the private sector and academic life.
Evidence indicates Global Leaders are not exclusively born but can be made by cultivating the following characteristics in particular:
Truly knowing yourself and understanding your own belief system and how it might differ from anyone else’s is the first critical stepping stone for any leader. The ability to adapt to and tolerate the deep-seated beliefs of others is a fundamental characteristic of a great leader and without this important piece of the puzzle many business opportunities will never come to fruition.
Global Business Leaders ooze a certain presence. They dress for the part but also exert self-confidence, a high energy level, an interest in other people and seem to be comfortable, whatever the latest challenges they are faced with. At the end of the day employees want to follow someone who is charismatic, energetic and positive. It is about more than simply defining the content of the work that needs to be done but rather about making the context more meaningful through inspiration. When people share an inspired vision, they are ready to follow their leaders.
Studying or living and working abroad and transcending their own cultural perspective to gain an excellent working understanding of how business is transacted within a range of different perspectives and across a diverse assortment of cultures and contexts is essential training for any global leadership position. Most Global Business Leaders have made the deliberate choice to allow for maximum flexibility in their graduate course studies and graduated from a MIM to establish a firm and wide base from which they could comfortably go on to excel in many different areas.
Making Cultural Diversity Work in Your Favour
With experience and an intense interest in the daily lives and cultures of others, comes the ultimate recognition that what you have learnt to accept as normal is not necessarily correct and certainly by no means superior, to the ideas fostered by other cultures. Becoming a master of global leadership depends on your full understanding of the small matters that another culture can pivot on. Showing respect in the correct cultural context can change the game entirely and when you get used to not being able to apply rote assumptions to situations, you remain open to better problem solving.
Willing to Understand a Time and a Pace
Balancing culture, demands, trends and processes around the world is a delicate job. When you are in charge of a global product you need to factor in where the pace is going to be fast and where it needs to be slow. Allowing another culture in another place to set the pace where necessary might be the best way to achieve your goal fast even though it seems unbearably slow in comparison to your own culture. The Global Leader recognises the impact that their actions have on surrounding communities and constituencies. They understand that personal prosperity is dependent upon the prosperity of others and they always acknowledge their role in transforming not only their own companies, but also the societies in which they operate.
Keeping your Ears Open
Stay interested in the world around you. Global Business Leaders have a natural curiosity about the world and an interest in people different from themselves. Especially when people do things different from the way their culture has raised them to do the same things. Understanding that other cultures and beliefs have very rewarding solutions for complex (and also simple) problems may give you the edge over individuals who are not fascinated by any answer that isn’t their own. The ability to listen with real intention when anyone else speaks is a quality all global leaders possess, and this interest inspires visionary initiatives and organisations that span national boundaries. Leaders with vision and a concern for the direction that an organisation is moving in are always more popular than leaders who are less sure of where they are heading.
The Great Communicator
Learning another language is an incredible personal skill. Being able to strike a deal with another company in their own language will take your negotiation skills to another level entirely. Clear communication is a key global business skill and one of the most undeniably powerful leadership skills you can possibly have on the global stage. A Global Business Leader will not only have the brilliant ideas but will also have the skills that are needed to ensure that the ideas are communicated exceedingly well… and in the best language for the job.
Curiosity, Curiosity, Curiosity
Keeping up with a rapidly evolving global market depends on intense curiosity. If your extraordinary desire to keep learning does not outpace the change that happens, you will quite simply, find yourself left behind. A system of keeping up with new learning opportunities and finding a way to take them up is key to leading from the front. And every time you learn more you have to acknowledge that there will be more to learn again the next day.
There might be grey areas as far as the truth and honesty go in business but when it comes to morality and ethics it is all black and white. Even though these ideas are not used in business exactly as you would define them in your personal life, your word needs to be immutable. A reputation for honesty is one of your most precious commodities and once you lose trust it is very difficult to regain. Honesty is very closely tied to value and ethics and this, in turn, links to admiration. Global leaders stand firm on important principles and have confidence in their own beliefs. They are credible and dependable, and they always act with integrity in pursuit of solutions.
It is always about strategy and about the bigger picture. There is no excuse for not using the best people from around the planet today. A lifetime of networking at all levels of the global boardrooms combined with an ability to see the business puzzle on an international scale allows strategic decisions that set global leaders apart. At the same time, at some point there will be a financial crisis. Global Business Leaders understand that everything moves in cycles and always will do. They are prepared for things not always to go well.
No-one will be surprised to find strong negotiation skills in the mix when you are confronted with a list of leadership techniques. Learning to enjoy the art of the negotiation with the added challenge of ethnic, national and regional differences is a little like acquiring chess skills. It will only truly be mastered with practice.
At the end of the day, employees will look to a leader who can get the job done. Without competence, it is difficult to display expertise. Global Business Leaders inspire grand vision to individuals and bring them together in a team that is purpose driven and can achieve a common mission.
IPBS MIM can help you in developing all these skills and become a great Business Leader.