In this day and age, marketplaces are becoming more and more globalized, and there is rapid international expansion in every sector. This means today’s business leaders need to be ready to work and interact with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Traditionally, business leaders operating in more familiar zones knew what to expect of their staff and the markets they were operating in, and could manage time and conflict easily. But that is all changing now, as companies have offices spread across regions and time zones, staff speak many languages and have different work-style preferences, and markets rise and fall as new players from across the world enter the game. This makes for a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business landscape that only culturally competent leaders who have a global mindset can navigate.
So what is the difference between the traditional mindset of leaders in local businesses and the global mindset of today’s international business leaders?
General Perspective: First of all, those with traditional mindsets have specialized, functional perspectives on work-related topics, whereas those with global mindsets can think in cross-functional, cross-cultural terms, enabling boundary-less organizations.
Organizational Life: While traditionally, business leaders were able to prioritize forces, eliminate conflict and rely on a simple hierarchy in their organizational undertakings, these days, global leaders have to learn how to balance contradictions between global standards and local practices, leverage inevitable conflict as an opportunity, and create trustworthy matrix structures to carry out procedures. They have to create global objectives for their businesses as opposed to simply local ones, and they have to learn how to influence, persuade and make presentations to partners and associates who have different interaction and thinking styles.
Work Style: Traditional business leaders had to have a good degree of self-awareness and to make sure that they themselves had mastered all of the tasks involved in their jobs. However, today’s international leaders have to not only gain self-awareness, but other-awareness too. They have to focus on teamwork instead of individual work, and learn how to work in complex matrix structures.
View of Change: It is certain that one of the major aspects of the modern business world is the speed and rate at which it changes. While in the past, leaders in local markets would strive to avoid change and limit surprises, today’s business leaders must expect, value and actively enable change. When leaders see change as a growth opportunity both on the personal and business levels, they can better manage – and leverage – it.
Learning: Finally, while specific knowledge and skills, as well as attending training sessions, used to be valued, now leaders must be life-long learners of a wide range of skills that are globally applicable. Importantly, individuals are responsible for their own career development.
It is more necessary than ever for business leaders to learn how to work and interact with people from different cultural backgrounds. Only those with a global mindset can the set trajectories of their careers and their organizations to compete on a global scale.Back to Navigating Culture Blog