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.
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.