Building a Global Leadership Pipeline

Globalization has effected major changes in the business environment. As the world shrinks and globalization increases, companies are constantly changing strategies and operational procedures. Having the right leaders at international and multinational companies is critical to corporate performance. Managers and executives need to be able to motivate, influence and enable individuals across national boundaries and cultures to accomplish a company’s goals.

Part of a global leader’s impact is that person’s ability to increase an organization’s capacity to evolve into a global company and to grow a business strategy for the larger global marketplace. This kind of corporate evolution demands that an organization prepare future leaders who can successfully carry out global corporate strategy. Global leadership development (GLD) provides much-needed competency.

Why Is There a Global Leadership Shortage?

Global leadership demands are qualitatively different and significantly more complex than those for domestic leadership. Leadership values in different locales also vary. Further, there is a shortage of global leaders which hinders companies’ global business strategy execution. In previous generations, the global leadership competency was not required. However, changing business environments and the shortage of prepared global leaders creates an immediate and critical need for global leadership development.

GLD programs to address the gap between global leadership needs and the capacity shortage should be a major focus for talent management and learning and development leaders.

The lack of leaders ready to take on global roles in emerging and expanding markets indicates that learning leaders’ current GLD program offerings are deficient. In DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011, only 38 percent of the 12,423 leaders who participated reported the quality of leadership in their organizations as very good or excellent. Worse, only 18 percent of HR professionals surveyed reported a strong bench to meet future business needs.

Despite these dismal statistics, there is a growing consensus around the most valuable global leadership attributes: personality, values, cultural background and corporate work experience; global leadership competencies: engagement in personal transformation, knowledge, networking skills, social judgment skills, self-awareness and self-regulation; and learning and development methods: expatriate assignment, global teams, experiential learning, coaching, intercultural training, assessment and reflection.

How Do Global Leaders Develop?

Effective global leaders often stand out in four primary areas: personality traits, values, cultural background and corporate work experiences. The personality traits are perhaps the hardest to change and develop, as well as the most difficult to assess during the recruiting and succession planning process.

Nonetheless, assessing personality is valuable because it impacts the effectiveness of the GLD experience. The “big five” personality traits include: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to experience. From here, it is important to determine what global leadership competencies are not only necessary, but complement the aforementioned personal attributes. Six global leadership competencies have been found to be most relevant.

Once a company identifies the competencies critical to performance, the next step is to design and provide learning and development opportunities aligned with those competencies. Global leadership learning and development methods range from high- to low-contact, and include a variety of experiences, all offering a different result.

The recommended talent management framework  provides a systematic, comprehensive system integrating recruiting, succession planning, career development and continuous learning and development to attract, identify, select, develop and retain the pipeline of high-performance, high-potential future global leadership talent today’s organizations need.

This framework effectively shows the relationships between personal attributes, global leadership competencies and learning and development methods, and aligns each with specific talent management functions. As such, it lays the foundation for a theory of global leadership development that is practical in implementation.

The goal of this conceptual framework is to provide the structure learning leaders need to develop global leadership. At one level, this framework may be perceived moving left to right similar to an employee lifecycle, as an individual moves from being a global leader candidate to a global leader.
However, the framework also represents GLD as an iterative process in which a global leader continues to develop through different experiences and never actually completes the GLD process. Business environments and organizations’ needs change, thus leadership competencies must evolve accordingly.

Making a Global Leadership Framework Work

Once a GLD framework has been established, some questions may still remain: Which personality traits and competencies are most important for a specific job function? Which learning and development methods are most effective to develop each global leadership competency?

In a 2010 study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and Wharton School of Business, answers to these questions were collected from global leadership development practitioners in Western cultures, specifically the United States.

The study concluded that when building a global leadership development program, it is recommended the learning leader use an integrated approach of:

1. Recruiting and succession planning based on the personal attributes.
2. Career development based on the global leadership competencies.
3. Learning and development based on the methods most effective per competency.

For the recruiting and succession planning function, companies should leverage personality traits. For the career development function, a company needs to leverage global leadership competencies, which are similar to personality traits and depend on a global leader’s job function. Once the global leadership competencies are clearly defined in career development, the learning function determines the appropriate development methods.

GLD programs must clarify the global leadership competencies to be developed per job function before designing programs and subsequent learning and development methods. It is important that companies building a GLD program provide a well-blended learning plan using multiple learning and development methods, including, but not limited to: coaching, building global teams, experiential learning, expatriate assignments, reflection, assessment, networking, mentoring, job shadowing and on-the-job assignments.

A balanced GLD program should use different development methods, dependent on the desired competency. Also, companies should prioritize their learning budget based on the global leadership competencies that are most critical for each job function. This would include an effort to develop self-awareness in their CEO, operations and financial leaders; engagement in personal transformation in their HR, operations and information technology leaders and CEO; and self-regulation in their financial and operations leaders and CEO.

Research on global leadership attributes, competencies and learning and development methods has significant implications for global leadership development programs, including:

1. Practitioners need to use a manageable list and clear definitions to clarify the distinctions between personality traits and global leadership competencies.

2. The difference between domestic and global leaders is not the competency per se, but the degree of proficiency per leadership competency.

3. The most effective learning and development method depends on the global leadership competency to be developed, requiring companies to design programs and prioritize their learning and development budgets.

The implementation of these strategies can provide companies with prepared, organized and successful leadership to execute their global business strategy.

About the Author:

John Gillis Jr. is the founding partner of First Order Consulting. Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer magazine

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