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Why Organisations Are Failing to Develop Global Leaders

Matthew MacLachlan

20 Mar 2017

Few modern-day organisations can afford to turn their backs on international expansion and the opportunities that a larger market brings. While there are many benefits to international expansion, there are also many challenges and threats. Chiefly among them is knowing how to develop global leaders from among your existing pool of “local leaders”. 

Is it Harder to Find Or to Develop Global Leaders?

Most of these organisations believe they are struggling to find good global leaders or even to recognise future global leaders from amongst their current employee base. Why is it so hard for otherwise successful organisations to find successful global leaders? And why are they not able to identify future global leaders from their own talent pool?

Survey Indicates Major Deficit in Global Leadership Competencies

Published in SHRM, the results of a study conducted by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Human Capital Institute may provide some of the answers. The survey was answered by more than 300 human resource and talent development professionals.

More than 60% of respondents considered global leadership competencies as a major strategic deficit within their own organisations

Although respondents agreed that global leaders are essential for the future of multinational organisations with a global reach, they also recognised the shortage of global leadership talent on the ground.

Urgent Need to Develop Global Leaders

The survey results showed that more than 60% of respondents considered global leadership competencies as a major strategic deficit within their own organisations.

What Characteristics Are Most Important For Global Leaders? Top 5 Characteristics of Good Global Leaders

The survey revealed the top 5 characteristics identified as requirements for good global leaders:

  1. Multicultural sensitivity
  2. Effective communication
  3. Strategic thinking
  4. Influencing skills
  5. Respect for differences

The Challenges

The survey also noted several important challenges. Many of the organisations that took part in the survey recognised a worrying lack of global awareness.

Their employees may not have developed a sufficient level of multicultural sensitivity: a major requirement to become a global leader in their organisation. Organisations also reported their difficulties in trying to recruit external global talent.

The Solutions

Talent and HR managers recognise that the shortage of good global leaders does not bode well for the future; the demand for global leadership competencies is growing.

Many of the organisations that took part in the survey recognised a worrying lack of global awareness

Training

One of the major shortfalls in developing global leaders is in the area of training. Although 92% of the survey respondents believed that global leadership competencies could be attained through targeted training, there were very few organisations that followed through.

92% of the survey respondents believed that global leadership competencies can be attained through targeted training

Most leadership development programmes do not include targeted solutions around global competencies. Those that did were largely ineffective.

Instead, most organisations relied on passive methods of ‘development’ such as drawing on employees who have been on some international business trips. Others relied on employees to take their own initiative through their ability to network with the right people.

Peer mentoring or a buddy system may well be a cost-effective way of supporting more formal training initiatives

Training should be targeted to develop global leaders via targetted intercultural and international competencies training with support through a planned programme of international exposure. Peer mentoring or a buddy system may well be a cost-effective way of supporting more formal training initiatives.

Proactive Development

Anyone hoping to compete in a global marketplace must become much more proactive to remain competitive. Global businesses have direct access to a diverse talent pool through the communities in which they are located. HR and talent management professionals may not need to look very far for their future leadership talent pool.

Organisations must recognise that global leaders must be nurtured and provided with the skills they require through a structured career path that includes formal training.

This should be planned well in advance so organisations can project who their future leaders will be as well and prepare them with the skills they require.

Developing good global leadership characteristics is not a luxury but a basic tool for organisations that recognise their future market is the global market.