We’ll start with honesty and transparency. This article could go down thousands of routes to justify its title, so we’ll start with the basics. The two key words here are “leader” and “Global”. The latter is easy and relates to the whole world. So let’s find out what is a global leader and how to become one.

Now the tricky word, “Leader”. Use your favourite search engine to find definitions, insights, quotes and narratives and you’ll find that the internet is overstocked with interpretations of this ubiquitous word. We will start with a premise of leadership based around people;

“Getting people to follow you because you’ve convinced them that’s what they want to do”.

It’s simple, clean, uncluttered and in so many ways it gets to the heart of what every leader needs to do in order to be influential without being aggressive.

Now put the two ideas together and the real challenge starts to come into focus. How do you convince people from different countries, cultures, religions and political viewpoints to follow you?

The rise in effective and successful global leadership within multinationals, NGOs and other cross border organisations is proof that this very 21st century form of leadership is not just doable, but on the rise.

“Getting people to follow you because you’ve convinced them that’s what they want to do”.

What Sort of Intelligence is Needed?

Baby boomers looked to leaders with “strength” and big brains. Eisenhower and Churchill were the big names in global leadership back in the 1940s and 50s but they were already outdated. President John F. Kennedy provided the wind of change but his force was sadly short lived. He was, some would say the first modern leader thanks to his apparent empathy and approachability.

It’s fair to say that UK and US leadership reverted to type for quite some time after Kennedy and it wasn’t until the 1990s that both sides of the Atlantic welcomed a more connected, empathetic, understanding, friendly model of statesmanship though Messrs Blair and Clinton.

Their modern appeal wasn’t just down to their obvious well-groomed and educated intellects. They possessed an instinct for emotional intelligence that their contemporaries still, perhaps secretly, aspire to today.

In early 2015 multinational services and facilities management business Sodexo embarked on a project to transform leadership styles to a more inclusive style. Leading the project was their Chief transformation officer Sunil Nayak.

“In today’s world” he said, setting out his stall, “success for any leader is about being a good influencer. If you impose your method, if you’re not sensitive or aware of the other person’s method, either you won’t come to a decision or you won’t get buy-in.”

This speaks volumes about the future leader’s need to understand those they lead, what they need and how they work. Only with these competencies can they work effectively across cultures.

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Authentic or Fake

Forgive the trip down memory lane again but back in the 60s, 70s and 80s there was a man who dominated US Television news correspondence and anchoring. His name was Walter Cronkite.

The challenge? Training yourself and others around you to develop Emotional, and Cultural Intelligence, then using it to become a more effective global leader.

Walter had a way with words, a likeable and trusted face, and a tangible connection with the vast US news watching population. He officially retired from the news desk in 1981 but continued to work, interview and speak to a welcoming audience.

He was a true leader in the news and information world and was well known and respected around the world. He was affectionately known as “Uncle Walter” and many attributed his trustworthiness to his vocal style. He had trained himself to speak at the rate of 124 words per minute, 40 fewer words than the average American, so that he could be easily and clearly understood.

But that wasn’t his trick. His success in leading the world of news reporting was that he too was emotionally intelligent enough to understand his audience, the subjects on which he reported, and those he interviewed. He leaned in and listened, he understood more than the average person, and all because he knew that understanding was the secret.

One question he was asked was, “Mr Cronkite, what was your secret?”. His reply was funny, but over modest. “Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you. Sincerity. If you can fake that you’ll can get them to tell you anything”.

Global Leadership doesn’t start with multinational CEOs, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings or Queens

Many say that his very funny response was in fact a classic piece of humility from a man who clearly connected with people because he took the time to understand them, whoever they were and wherever they were from.

This perhaps is the secret behind leaders whose success is not limited to single territories or cultures. Leaning in. Listening. Understanding. Caring.

Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.

Global Leadership doesn’t start with multinational CEOs, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings or Queens. It starts with our next generation of leaders, children, teenagers, undergraduates and new recruits. It is propagated by those in a position to shape attitudes and mindsets by instilling this simple idea;

Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.

The challenge? Training yourself and others around you to develop Emotional, and Cultural Intelligence, then using it to become a more effective global leader.