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Leadership Leap - Go from Garage to Globe

Good things can happen in a garage. Pixar Animation Studios, for example, has its roots in a garage on Long Island's North Shore. We Californians happily claim Pixar and Apple now, and other garage success stories, including Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and their dream. Success often begins in a subway, café, or back of a napkin.

In the 21st century, you can go from garage to globe in a blink. Fast forward: Steve Jobs opens Apple Store Beijing, and visitors shop on their way to the XXIX Olympiad in China.

Are you ready for the globe? In interviewing 200 high-potential leaders from 120 companies worldwide, we developed 15 dimensions of leadership for the effective global leader, created a list of 100 success factors, and ranked them. For future leaders, globalization ranked number 2nd in importance; for current leaders, it ranked 71st, and for leaders of the past, 77th. Apparently new leaders want to start leaving the garage faster.

Let's look at five emerging competencies critical for global leaders.

1. Think globally. Here are three ways to start thinking globally:

  • Expand beyond a "home-centric" view. Through research, study and experience, learn about other cultures and what motivates people. Exit the garage, set out to sea, and learn flexibility. Flipping your perspective will enhance critical thinking and emotional intelligence.

  • Align local objectives to global strategies, and vice versa. Mastering the communication connection between headquarters and subsidiary operations leads to effective collaboration, flexible leadership, and strong support systems. Seek input and use it. Your projects will benefit from listening, reflection, and action.

  • Ensure that the home team gets the global vision. You may have gone global, but the rest of your staff may be still be talking about last night's ballgame. Pull the team together; help global words to have local meaning. Humanize your work with stories. Rather than using sweeping global management lingo, share the details of your recent trip to Shanghai or Sidney.

2. Leverage global diversity. Global diversity takes into account such human factors as generational differences, gender, and personal perspective.

  • Know thyself. Ultimately everyone is a "local," and knowing your local self provides insight into how you relate to others. Cast aside the old lens of cross-cultural understanding and get curious. Self-awareness is the best benchmark as you develop tolerance and respect for other cultures' ethics, laws, and norms.

  • Prep yourself and co-workers to understand without judging. Inserting reflection into your teamwork may increase your global profits more than an elaborate marketing strategy. Remain open: what you assume about Chinese, Latinos, or Americans may not be true.

  • Use the highest standards of respect and flexibility. The Golden Rule says "treat others as you would like to be treated." The Platinum Rule says "treat others as they would like to be treated." Adapt your management style as needed. One rule of thumb is to get silent, take time to observe, then act.

3. Develop technological savvy. You need to have basic ability, know who the experts are and where to find them, and how to best utilize their technical expertise for business success.

  • Good tech and clear talk helps the global team. During the 1990s, teams were attracted by the bells and whistles of technology. With the passage of time, teams have come to find that technological advancement is no replacement for good communication skills. A leader must find ways to relay her message across the wires to multiple global contacts in a personal way.

  • Use the right tools at the right time. To communicate with people you seldom see, understand, and utilize the communication options that technology presents. A virtual PowerPoint with conference may work better than an email chat or Skype, or the issue may simply require a face-to-face meeting.

4. Build partnerships and alliances. A partnership is usually an association of two or more people, whereas an alliance is a union of organizations. The ability to forge formal links is a critical competency for global leaders.

  • Rely on influence and partnerships rather than on top-down management. Treat co-workers as partners by sharing appropriate knowledge and building relationships of trust. You may report to several managers and must get things done without direct authority. Make connections upward to senior managers, down to direct reports, and across to co-workers and peers.

  • Build effective networks. The Chinese phrase guanxi, meaning "connections," implies a long-term process. The guanxi of the East is joining the methods of the West in new business contexts.

  • Create a culture of innovation, open communication and feedback. Build alliances across the entire organization, using cross-functional teams. You need to communicate within multiple networks.

5. Share Leadership. Global realities require you to share power in new ways:

  • Build common ground. Seek to understand the goals of those you work with. Enable others to take ownership in their area of expertise. Be aware of personal limitations and link with talented individuals, knowing when to tap the skills of one individual or team, and de-emphasize the contribution(s) of another.

  • Focus on the greater long-term good; help others to do the same to develop an authentic sense of common purpose. Rather than using artificial, externally imposed incentives, gather the input of all team members. The language of mission, social responsibility, and sustainability can be useful as a catalyst.

As you hit the global stage, leadership becomes an art of collaboration to maximize the blend of differing cultures and styles through person-to-person understanding and technology.

By building on these five emerging competencies, you can utilize your unique personal style and make the leap from garage to globe.

By Maya Hu-Chan

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About Us

Rowland & Associates is a premier cross-cultural consulting firm, providing essential international business skills since 1985. Our passion is bringing intercultural business success through heightened insight and agility. We believe that bold steps with exceptional preparation can create dynamic solutions.


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