How to be an effective global leader?
Many aspire to achieve a position in global leadership. But very few manage to successfully and efficiently sustain it. Being a global leader demands you investing most of your time in creating value to your people, before you add value to the organization.
It takes courage and grit, especially to lead teams during challenging times. But more importantly, it takes a healthy dose of self-awareness, to grow into an impactful global leader. Because the higher up we go in the hierarchy, the more we need to evolve ourselves. Thus, this situation at once becomes a challenge as well as an opportunity of rising through the ranks.
“The role of a leader is not to be the hero of anyone’s story but to inspire and equip others to be the hero of their own stories.” – Liz Bohannon, Founder & CEO of Sseko Designs
Observing Diversity in Perspective
Just like we all live in unity through a shared humanity, we also have a few shared leadership concerns. Once you reach a certain level of responsibility, where other people’s livelihood depends on your decision-making, you can relate with the stress that leaders across businesses go through.
It doesn’t matter where in the world these people live and work or what your company produces. We can’t possibly understand every culture that we deal with. As global leaders, we need to rely on people who have become the ‘bridges' between the diverse cultures, those that have mixed parentage or have spent significant amounts of time living abroad, so that they can serve as ‘interpreters’ from one culture to another and help us built a team that is empowered to tackle any obstacles. Therefore, what should matter is to understand that these people come from diverse cultures and backgrounds and that is something a leader must always respect.
Recognize. Appreciate. Collaborate. Celebrate.
Depending on your personal leadership style and your company’s culture you might approach different situations, differently. You might be more or less risk averse, you might prioritize engagement over profit or, you might be a strong believer in fostering team autonomy.
But if there’s one thing that every leader must remember, irrespective of his/her designation, is to ‘Appreciate Efforts’. Even if they are failed attempts, recognizing the efforts will build a sense of resilience. Research indicates that high performing teams have a 5:1 praise:criticism ratio, that helps them collaborate to create. Celebrate the wins of your team. But also, celebrate their efforts towards collaborating and recognize their passion to make things happen.
Benchmarking Best Practices
Once you rise to the global leadership level, your direct reports are usually accomplished leaders in their own right. They might not have the same leadership style as you but they have likely faced, and often, solved issues similar to the ones that you have been grappling with, over the years. If they have a ‘difference in opinion’ on what is the best way to tackle a respective issue, then it might not only be worth hearing their reasoning behind it, but also, benchmarking it.
At the global leadership level, you can no longer just follow the rulebook. You are expected to innovate! And not merely the products or services that your company offers. In your position, a lot of things become your responsibility – Right from building a robust Employee Value Proposition, to creating a sustainable long-term business strategy. A global leader is therefore not only expected to be on their toes and keep an eye on the industry trends, but is also required to instill best practices for everyday seamless functioning.
Leading with a Vision
You can’t possibly understand all the perspectives by yourself. This goes beyond just seeing the bigger picture. This is about seeing the global perspective, and all the local perspectives that add up to the global one. Just like every innovator, you too need to understand the expectations of those that you are serving.
- What are their needs?
- What are the obstacles holding them back right now?
- What changes would they make if they could?
In other words, you need to listen to them rather than tell them about your ideas. Simply ask a few open-ended questions and ‘Listen’. Take time to integrate all the information you gather, digest it, map it with industry insights, and then formulate a plan based on it. Give credit where due and set an example of the change that you wish to initiate. Trust your team to see things through! Lead with the vision of excelling, as a team.
Embark on a Consistent Journey of Continuous Learning
With this world becoming more and more VUCADD (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, dynamic, diverse), we need to not only be more alert to and in flow with constant changes, but also, be more humble and collaborative. Being kind and empathetic in our communications and genuine and consistent while providing feedback is even more important at this stage in your career than ever before. Listening, really listening to others, is not only a sign of humility, but also, a great way to keep learning.
Each of the points above deserve a detailed exploration. Understanding how to become an effective global leader is not so much about the technicalities of rising up the ladder, as it is about the inner readiness to serve the greater good in a humble and inspiring way.
In my coaching practice, I have had the good fortune to work with extremely humble and inspiring leaders and to learn from them and their journeys to success. This series is my attempt at sharing some of these valuable insights with you and I hope this can spark an exchange of stories and experiences.