What Future Leaders Need: Cross-Cultural Skills

Matthew MacLachlan

25 May 2016

As businesses continue to globalise and the current generation of leaders starts to retire, organisations are presented with an opportunity to assess the leadership skills their new leaders will require in light of the ever-changing markets and geographies in which they now operate. Read on and find out how important cross-cultural skills are in today’s corporate world.

Cross-cultural Skills to Enhance your International Management Skills

Emotional intelligence, people skills and flexibility – 3 key skills of future leaders

The Guardian released the findings of a study, run in conjunction with Cass Business School, which interviewed senior executives from a wide range of industries and geographies.

The study’s findings showed that the most valued attributes identified for future leaders are:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • People skills
  • Flexibility

What about the Baby Boomers’ leadership style?

Today’s markets are demanding an understanding of how they truly work

The Baby Boomer generation’s leadership style of strength, drive, competition, know-how, experience and a mastery of technical skills are very different to the skills expected of Generations X and Y.

In the early days, when fewer businesses were truly global, many Western businesses were able to manage expansion into international markets relying on their conventional leadership tools. These days have effectively come to an end, with ever more sophisticated markets demanding an understanding of how they truly work.

Markets are in constant change

Leaders will be required to be more collaborative, more culturally aware

Today’s global markets are different, and they will continue to evolve and demand more. Leaders will need to change to be able to address the needs of these changing markets, consumers and employees.

They will be required to be:

International expansion demands cross-cultural skills

Senior executives were asked which three qualities they expected from future leaders – emotional intelligence, flexibility and people skills

With S&P 500 companies now seeing almost half of their revenues coming from outside the US, the need to understand global markets is no longer an option – it is a pre-requisite.

When senior executives were asked which three qualities they expected from future leaders, the majority cited:

1. Emotional intelligence

2. Flexibility

3. People skills

These three skills, traditionally regarded as more feminine leadership skills, reflect a more collaborative and collective style of leadership – regardless of the gender of the leader.

What does Generation X need to succeed as heirs to the current leadership?

70% of all respondents identified the need for cultural awareness and diversity training and coaching

According to the study, more than 70% of all respondents identified the need for cultural awareness and diversity training and coaching – especially as a way to understand and reflect the characteristics of global markets.

85% identified foreign language skills as important for leaders

In addition, more than 85% identified foreign language skills as important for leaders, including those at an executive level.

Organisations and their leaders looking to increase their businesses abroad and remain successful will truly need to think globally, act globally, speak globally …. and discover their ‘feminine side’.



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