The uncertain times require leaders to have a global mindset, manage differences and be able to redefine self. Excerpts from the People Matters & BIMTECH Roundtable Series on the Art & Science of Developing Leaders
Increasing uncertainty and ambiguity are being seen as the most critical challenges for leaders today. As the economy continues on its dwindling path, organizations across the globe and in India are finding the need to increasingly be prepared for contingencies in the future, instead of focusing primarily on only their long-term or short-term goals. The rate of change has accelerated, indicating that leaders must learn how to strike a balance between managing complex issues today and predicting the uncertain issues of tomorrow.
Ajay Soni, Practice Leader, Leadership Consulting, AON Hewitt defines the present business scenario as being interconnected, uncertain and filled with great opportunities for leaders to exploit. He adds, “In the interconnected world, leaders must be able to tackle short-term challenges and long-term opportunities, and therefore must have the ability to connect the dots.”
A global leader
In the present business scenario, the leadership spectrum includes leaders of three natures. There are leaders with global responsibilities or performing activities, which span across borders. There are leaders who interface routinely with customers, suppliers or peers from other countries. And there are leaders with purely local responsibilities who have little or no interaction with customers, suppliers or peers in other countries. But, all three types of leaders have the need to become global leaders in the present context of how business is operated and the fact that any business is influenced by external factors in the interconnected world.
To be effective in an interconnected world, leaders must acquire three critical characteristics for greater effectiveness:
A global mindset: The leader’s ability to think, strategize and therefore, take decisions from a more macro perspective will contribute to greater success. Business no more operates in a silo, and the truth is that in an interconnected world, the fortunes of Indian IT sector is linked to US recovery, which must overcome the European divorce! Thus, leaders must understand global dynamics and how it can impact business.
Ability to re-define self: Continuous change being the only constant, leaders must have the ability to re-evaluate their strengths and be willing to change in order to suit the changing demands of the economy and business.
Manage differences: The interconnected world extends the workplace beyond office boundaries and geographies. It is essential for leaders, therefore, to be able to manage cultural differences, as well as be open to adopt new styles and attitudes as demanded.
Keeping in mind the above context, Ron Moffatt, Director, San Diego State University International Student Center, defines a global leader as one who has a grasp of global systems, global issues, the dynamics of how things are interrelated and interconnected in the world, and how organizations can best address global issues.
So, what are the competencies of a global leader?
Being sensitive to cultures and encourage diversity
Leaders must be able to appreciate and understand cultural differences of people to really be able to optimize their collective strength. The more interconnected the world becomes, the more it will have people from varied cultures, demography or geography working together. The ability of a leader to understand their differences and work with that will define his/her success as a global leader.
Creating connectedness will go beyond the internal business environment. Business success will require global leaders to seamlessly partner with all stakeholders to create partnerships. Partnering with different stakeholders will enable global leaders to achieve far more, as it will allow businesses to capitalize on their collective strength.
The uncertain times present the most unpromising situations and global leaders must showcase optimism in the face of uncertainty during tough times. The confidence that businesses will be able to surpass the difficult times and ensure continuity will be based on the global leader’s ability to stay optimistic at all times.
Comfort with ambiguity
The present uncertainty reaffirms that change is the only constant. A global leader must be very comfortable with constant ambiguity. Changes in global economy will continue to have its implications on business and a global leader will need the ability to steer through such confusing and hazy situations, while staying focused on the business objective.
Risk taking and being decisive
The rough and tough business scenario poses a demanding situation for global leaders who often need to make critical decisions without much clarity on the repercussions. Global leaders must present a risk taking ability and be decisive as they stay focused on ensuring business continuity even in the worst of situations.
Can organizations create global leaders?
To create global leaders, organizations need to invest on developing global leaders who have the above competencies. The business fraternity in India is cognizant of the challenge inadequate leadership can pose on business continuity and success. This demands a change in how leadership developed is approached in organizations today. There is a clear need to start early by identifying potential leaders at an early age and grooming them, exposing them to challenging assignments and allowing them to learn from experience, by creating learning agility in people and instilling a will to change continuously.