Last week, I was in the mountains of Utah, USA working with a client on a global leadership development program. It is a 9-month program that has week long intensives every 3 months. Week 1 is held in China, week 2 in the USA and week 3 is in Sweden. At the conclusion of week 3 action learning groups present their final projects to the executive team.
I am always impressed at the commitment that this organisation has toward developing and supporting its leaders. This particular program has been in existence for the past 12 years and has been through a number of iterations. The success of the program can be witnessed in terms of the organisations talent pipeline, product innovations, business growth and their ability to navigate the business vagaries of their industry while operating in 40 countries with 56,000 employees.
One of the pre-course assignments for week 2 was the requirement for all participants to present a summary of a leadership book. The participants in the current program came from 12 different countries. It was fascinating to observe that most of the participants presented a leadership book from their own cultural background, thus we had summaries of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Romanian, French, German, Italian and of course American literature.
The majority of leadership literature, research and theory stems from the U.S. Mostly this American literature is very good, though sometimes not easily applicable in different cultural contexts. Observing these summaries made me reflect on CILT � Culturally Implicit Leadership Theory. CILT states that people in different cultures have a view on what constitutes �good leadership�; hence what constitutes a �good� leader in one culture could be considered a �poor� leader in another.
Navigating through what culturally constitutes good leadership can be a minefield. Global leadership programs serve as an invaluable reminder of the challenges that leaders face often on a daily basis and provide an opportunity to take some time to reflect and appreciate these challenges. Decision making, motivating staff, accountability, planning, strategising, communicating, knowing when to have a hands-on and hands-off approach, managing the performance of individuals and traversing the operational processes are just some examples of the complexity involved in global leadership. Let�s not also forget another essential requirement, which is to align people located in different regions to the organizational vision and values.
One of the key action learning items on this particular program was the importance of having conversations with team members, particularly those located in different countries. These conversations with local teams allow leaders to better understand the different leadership perspectives and expectations that teams and individuals may have from particular cultures. This then assists leaders to communicate, manage and behave in a culturally appropriate manner that should be reflected in team performance and results.
A further support for global leaders is an Executive Coach or trusted individual who can act as a sounding board. This support can be invaluable in terms of testing assumptions, expectations and perceptions. This is useful in terms of how particular messages can be developed, delivered and received, thus establishing culturally appropriate and effective leadership styles.
Send to Friend