Leading with a global mindset requires these five essential skills.
As a leader, Hannah succeeds on many levels.
A senior VP in a global tech company, her role requires complex coordination in a global structure, collaborating and synchronizing with multiple functions across the organization’s boundaries. Hannah is technically extremely accomplished — a go-to expert in her field — and loved by her team, who describes her as selfless and kind, a true servant leader.
On paper, Hannah seems to exemplify a leader with a global mindset, defined as having the ability to adapt to local global cultures and environments to achieve business objectives. But recent feedback shows that she is not quite there.
Hannah is based in Asia but works with colleagues around the world. She is very vocal about her team’s accomplishments and contributions. To her peers, this cheerleading of the APAC (Asia and Pacific) region — and no other — comes off as territorial, overly competitive, and narrow in vision. They perceive Hannah as only caring about the company’s work in Asia.
This feedback troubled Hannah. She says that because she and her team are not based in the company’s U.S. headquarters, she is afraid they’ll be forgotten if she isn’t extra vocal. But as a leader for a global company, Hannah needs to be mindful of all regions, not just her APAC team.
After some coaching, Hannah was able to more fully embrace a global mindset, which is made up of these elements, as defined by Bettina Büchel and Michael Sorell of the International Institute for Management Development.
Hannah is in-tune with Asian cultures, but she has the opportunity to broaden her understanding of the differences and nuances of cultures around the globe. This skill is defined as cultural agility. Leaders who have cultural agility can more successfully navigate the complex dynamics of global, multicultural teams. They are adaptable and agile and are able to bridge differences across cultures. I encouraged Hannah to develop her own cultural agility and be ready to adapt her leadership style beyond what’s required for her Asian team.
Being an Early Mover
Embracing a global mindset requires the humility to accept that great ideas can come from anywhere, not just your own region. And leaders must be ready to move on to those ideas early. Being open to the creativity and ingenuity of other markets can lead to great innovation. I encouraged Hannah to invite the ideas and opinions of other teams and to send the message, with her actions and words, that she values those insights.
A global mindset requires balancing business goals, like standardization, with local needs and preferences. Global restaurants often do this when they adapt their menus to local tastes. This mindset requires openness and flexibility. I encouraged Hannah to adapt this thinking to her own role: Is she being too rigid in how she standardizes her leadership across regions?
Sharing Best Practices
Don’t keep your knowledge, expertise, and professional connections in a silo — share them across your organization. Be a mentor to colleagues outside your team. Share the things you have learned from experience. Connect people to one another and to resources. Having a global mindset is not just about geography, it’s about thinking beyond your own lane or function. For Hannah, it meant broadening her horizon and perspective beyond her own team and region.
There are many obstacles to global collaboration. Differences in culture, language, traditions, and customs can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. These obstacles are often inevitable, but their damage is mitigated when relationships are built on trust. I encouraged Hannah to be sensitive to differences and practice inclusion. Over time, she can build trust with those colleagues who perceived her as only caring about her home region.
In 1987, leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus coined the term VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) to reflect the environment of constant, unpredictable change that business leaders face. In an increasingly VUCA world, adopting a global mindset can help leaders, and their companies, thrive.
This article was originally posted on Inc.com