Few modern-day organizations 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. A key challenge facing organizations is knowing how to develop global leaders from among your existing pool of “local leaders”.  

Many organizations struggle to find effective global leaders or even to recognize future global leaders from amongst their current employee base.

Why is it so hard for otherwise successful businesses 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 

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

Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity

The Role Global Mobility Can Play in Delivering a Diverse Workforce

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

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

Further reading

8 Ways Compassionate Leadership Drives Successful Teams

5 Must-Have Skills of Any Future Assignee

What characteristics are most important for global leaders? 

The survey identified these characteristics as essential requirements for good global leaders: 

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

The survey also noted several important challenges.

Many of the organizations that took part in the survey recognized 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 organization.

Organizations also reported their difficulties in trying to recruit external global talent

The solutions 

Talent and HR managers, as well as Global Mobility managers, recognize that the shortage of good global leaders does not bode well for the future. The demand for global leadership competencies is growing. 

Training  

One of the major shortfalls when looking to develop 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 organizations that followed through.

Most leadership development programmes do not include targeted solutions around global competencies.

Those that did were largely ineffective. 

Instead, most organizations relied on passive methods of ‘development’ such as drawing on employees who have been overseas on short or long-term international assignments. Others relied on employees to take their own initiative through their ability to network with the right people. 

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

Organizations must recognize 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 organizations 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 organizations that recognize their future market is the global market.