Global Leadership in Practice: Leading with your Head, your Heart and your Guts.

My last post presented a conceptual framework for defining the ‘global’ of global leadership and proposed some managerial implications. Indeed, as global leadership is a key challenge in many organizations today, research increasingly focuses on providing advice on how to develop global leadership competences. For instance, international experience, solid career plans, leadership talent programs and better integration between leaders’ development and business goals are among the correct steps to be taken by globally oriented companies. What we are talking about here are specific strategies and the “science” of global leadership. However, is science enough for developing global leaders?

The Art of Global Leadership

Beth Brooke from Ernst & Young does not believe it is. In her recent guest article for Harvard Business Review, she argues that ‘unless a company also thinks about the art of global leadership, it will never reach its full potential.’ What she means by ‘art’ is a commitment to inclusive leadership, which is rather about values and habits that are difficult to measure and develop through a step-by-step process. Brooke implies that inclusive leadership is a way to manage diversity, by not just tolerating it, but rather by valuing the difference. In a more practical sense, inclusive leaders will encourage discussion of ideas presented in unfamiliar accents and styles, will welcome conflicting points of view, and will inspire creativity. As it seems, talking about the art of global leadership suggests that diversity should not only be accepted in your mind as a good strategic plan, but rather be embraced with your heart.

Leading with your Head, your Heart and your Guts

In my opinion, Beth Brooke’s way of thinking reflects the concept of being a complete – or whole – leader, as suggested in a publication commissioned by the professional service firms Mercer and Oliver Wyman (2007). According to the authors, global leaders should be able to lead with their heads, with their hearts and with their gut feelings. The strategic knowledge discussed in the introduction of this post falls into the category of leading with one’s head, which as the authors argue serves for managing complexity. However, I think that the art of global leadership corresponds to leading with one’s heart and guts, in order to better manage diversity and uncertainty. Hence, some of the behaviors in the categories identified in the following table suggest that a truly global leader would not only accept diversity as part of a global mindset, but would also build trusting relationships across cultures and appreciate competing interests.


Derived from
What the future demands: The challenge of global leadership development, 2007 Mercer/ Oliver Wyman, Harvard Business School Publishing, Mercer and Oliver Wyman

As Beth Brooke summarizes, learning the science of leadership will keep global firms growing, but only by mastering the art will they become giants. Relating this conclusion to complete leadership, we could argue that truly effective global leaders are not only highly capable at the strategic level, but show their passion in leading global teams and leverage their intuition in leading global change.

One thought on “Global Leadership in Practice: Leading with your Head, your Heart and your Guts.

  1. Great article about an important aspect of leadership. Leading without using the competencies of heart and gut is bound to produce less than optimal results. And fascinatingly, the ‘heart’ and ‘gut’ aspects of this are not just metaphors for emotion and courage.

    Informed by recent Neuroscience findings about the discovery of functional and complex neural networks or ‘brains’ in the heart and gut, we’ve completed 2.5 years of behavioral modeling research on the core competencies of these brains and how they communicate and integrate with the head brain. We’ve written about our findings and the models and techniques in our recently published book ‘mBraining’. See http://www.mbraining.com for more info.

    So leading with heart and gut is about learning how to tap into the innate wisdom and intelligence of these neural networks in the heart and gut.

    If you’d like to read more about ‘Neuroscience and the three brains of Leadership’, take a read of our free whitepaper:

    http://www.mbraining.com/mbit-and-leadership

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