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4 Key Practices for Developing Global Leaders

4 Key Practices for Developing Global Leaders

Mark Vickers | i4cp

June 18, 2010

I never thought I’d see this day. One of my colleagues is taking the week off to – get this – watch the World Cup. Now, if you live in Europe or Asia, this is expected behavior, but I live in the U.S., where the World Cup has historically been about as popular as a case of the croup.

This got me thinking not only about what the U.S. media is calling “World Cup fever” but about how today’s businesses are increasingly required to take on a World Cup mindset. That is, they must see the world as a global field with global talent playing to global audiences and markets, a field on which they want to place good leaders who have a firm grasp of the global competitive scene.

Some organizations are working harder than others to adapt to the global playing field. A new i4cp study, commissioned by the American Management Association, found that – among companies with 1,000 or more employees and some degree of multinational presence – only about half have implemented one or more global leadership development programs.

As expected, we found that organizations with global leadership programs are more likely to report higher market performance. That’s not a big surprise since globally expanding organizations are more likely to require such programs in the first place. But we also found that, even among companies with such initiatives, there’s still a lot of progress to be made. Only about two-fifths of respondents strongly or very strongly agreed with the statement that their “leadership development program is highly effective.”

Given these circumstances, what can organizations do to improve their global leadership development programs?

First, they should think about which competencies they wish to instill in their global leaders. Critical thinking and problem-solving competencies are important and commonly taught, according to the study. But perhaps even more important, the research shows, are teaching global leaders how to stay agile and adaptable, how to manage innovation well, and how to expand the organization’s brand in local and global commerce.

Maria Van Parys, Director of Leadership Education and Talent Management at i4cp-member-company Boston Scientific, notes that her organization’s global leadership development initiatives focus specifically on competencies such as adaptability, agility and innovation – competencies that she states become “more important the higher up you go in organizations.” She also notes that Boston Scientific is increasingly focused on developing stronger global competencies in the areas of resourcefulness, perseverance, accountability, and team building.

Another potential area of improvement lies in the involvement of senior business leaders. Our study found that when the senior executive team is involved, regardless of the specific role they play, both program success and market performance tend to be higher. Senior executive teams are most often involved in communicating about their organization’s leadership development program and in establishing the needed business results from the program. The good news is that simply having your senior leaders communicate more often about the global leadership development program – a relatively easy practice to implement – is associated with success. If an organization doesn’t already engage in any of these practices, getting improved communication from senior executives is a good place to start.

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