For Global Leaders, Global Skills Are Necessary but Not Sufficient

For Global Leaders, Global Skills Are Necessary but Not Sufficient

At the LSE Business Review, Ken Fireman stresses the increasing importance of global skills for leaders at multinational organizations:

As the world becomes ever smaller and more interconnected, the ability to train and manage an international workforce has become a key requirement for corporate success. But finding sufficient talent to handle this challenge can be a daunting task, one that requires careful planning and a significant commitment of resources. And it is not clear that business schools at U.S. universities are doing enough to meet the challenge by preparing the next generation of managers for life in this globalised environment.

The changing landscape is reflected in the sheer numbers of multinational corporations. There are now more than 100,000, up from 40,000 two decades ago, and they employ tens of millions around the globe. Some of the world’s best-known brands, such as Nestle and Honda, now have most of their operations and workforce outside their home country, which means more employees than ever are being sent on international assignments. Many multinationals are finding their greatest growth opportunities in countries outside the developed world, such as India, China and Brazil. …

But finding talent that meets this standard can be difficult, and the stakes are substantial. A survey of more than 800 U.S. companies in 2014 found that 86 percent said their overall business would grow if they had more staff with international experience, and 43 percent said it would increase a great deal.

A few years ago, CEB did some in-depth research into the qualities of effective global leadership. One of the most important findings of that study (which CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can read here) was that although not having intercultural skills can derail the success of global leaders, the competencies that make a global leader great are actually many of the same skills that make all leaders great. Influence skills were found to be the most important for great global leaders, followed by skills such as vision, decision making, and resource allocation.

In other words, while “global” competencies definitely matter, if organizations are overly focused on finding and developing talent with international backgrounds, language skills, interest in travel, etc., they run the risk of not getting the talent who will really succeed in global leadership positions in the long term.