Definition of global leadership

Global organisations face increased challenges and competition so success demands the best performance that corporate top managers can produce. When these executives work across multiple borders, they can become global leaders.

Succeeding globally means developing a global view while using local knowledge to understand particular business challenges in markets around the world. Executives need to understand different business contexts and be able to identify opportunities, leading to better business decisions about global markets.

Challenges for global leaders include balancing the benefits of standardisation with the need for local adaptation, managing virtual teams across geographies and time zones, dealing with contradictory thoughts and working through ambiguous situations.

Research indicates that global leaders with the skills to deal with complexity and uncertainty can perform well in global environments, but they can only sustain this level of performance if they pay attention to their values.


For instance, an Indian-based multinational company hired a Brazilian executive from a French corporation to head their China operation. This global leader had learned to build on his Brazilian habit of developing friendly relationships so that in China he was able to build networks within the firm and with outside stakeholders such as government, customers, and suppliers and so expand the business.  Brazilian culture highly values relationships, as do Indian and Chinese cultures so that the need to emphasise smooth interactions and develop friendly relationships with outside stakeholders - and so on - was familiar.

Paying attention to people this way helped him with his superiors and colleagues in India as well, since Brazil, China and India are all relationship-based cultures. He also needed to overcome his original discomfort with risk in order to meet the Indian's expectation of entrepreneurialism and even more so to show his Chinese colleagues that the company was ready to grasp opportunities. [1]

Nestlé, the Switzerland-based food company hires international management trainees each year and some are expected to become dedicated expatriates, meaning they can change location every few years. Additionally, they have the option to develop their careers locally.

Nestlé likes its masters in management degree trainees to have international exposure and an appreciation for local values as most of its brands are adapted for each country. Global brands such as Kit Kat (chocolate biscuit bar) and Nescafé are localised, for example, the green tea Kit Kat, available in Japan, reflects the Japanese taste for this beverage while Nescafé coffee has a localised taste in different countries. [2]


Outlook: less bleak?