Being Global: What Global Leaders Have in Common?

A couple of my previous blog posts discussed the definition of global leadership, as well as its practical facets. Following-up on this topic, I would like to refer to the work of Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh, who conducted an extensive research on global leaders documented in their book “Being Global: How to Think, Act and Lead in a Transformed World” published by Harvard Business Review Press.

This research argues that global leadership is not about acting global, but rather about being global, which can be characterized by possessing three critical skill sets that today’s global leaders have in common: global mindset, global entrepreneurship, and global citizenship.

 

Global Mindset

As Gregory Unruh states in his article in the CSR blog of Forbes journal, global mindset is about the ability to perceive and decode behaviors in multiple cultural contexts. In other words, global mindset consists of the cultural and emotional intelligence, cross-cultural knowledge, cultural competency and flexible communication skills that allow global leaders to effectively build trusting relationships across borders, nationalities and cultures. It is needed to connect people within the global business environment.

While some personal characteristics, like openness to change, for instance, can predispose global mindset to some extent, current knowledge suggests that this is a skill that can be learned and needs constant efforts for development. For example, one of my older articles discusses the ‘nature versus nurture’ dilemma in regards to expatriates – people highly in need of global mindset – summarizing that all competencies beyond personality dispositions can potentially be developed.

Similarly, the Najafi Global Mindset Institute argues that global mindset can be improved and developed and, more specifically, advise to strengthen a global mindset’s three capitals: intellectual, psychological and social. Intellectual capital represents knowledge of business and cultures around the world, psychological capital is the willingness and motivation to be global and accept diversity, and social capital reflects the willingness to adapt to different cultural contexts. So, similarly to any muscle, a global mindset can be flexed and trained – through international study, experiences abroad, and sustained networks across the globe.

 

Global Entrepreneurship

Commonly, global entrepreneurship refers to the creation of new and innovative businesses across national borders. However, Cabrera and Unruh use the term in a broader sense, implying that global leaders create new value not just through new businesses, but also in the non-profit world by establishing new global relationships, partnerships and investments. In other words, global leaders are connecting people and resources across boundaries in novel ways. As Unruh brings up in his subsequent Forbes CSR blog article, new value can be created either by leveraging similarities across boundaries (e.g. standard brand across countries), or by leveraging differences (e.g. glocalization), or by building something new, like common platforms that allow for international exchange (e.g. standard trading platforms, common cultural platform).

 

Global Citizenship

The global business environment provides shared prosperity, hence global leadership should also be tightly linked to the idea of global citizenship – the idea that one’s responsibilities transcend geography or political borders. For example, HP – one of largest technology companies – embraces the idea of global citizenship by rooting it in the corporate values and integrating it into business strategy and policies. To name a few, HP tries to make a positive impact by spurring innovation and growth around the world, focusing on conservation efforts in their operations, and managing risks to themselves, their suppliers and business partners. More examples are brought up in an article of The Wall Street Journal, which tells stories of several large corporations that are sending their employees to developing countries such as India, Ghana or Brazil to provide some ‘volunteering’ services to local populations. Such initiatives not only offer something good for communities in need, but also help businesses to utilize opportunities in hot emerging markets, as well as help employees to develop new skills, get out of their routines, and create more meaning in their careers.

All in all, Cabrera and Unruh argue that being global means connecting with the help of a global mindset, creating through global entrepreneurship, and contributing for the good of global citizenship.

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