17 Mar 2014 Back

Developing a Global Leadership Mindset

ARTICLE REVIEW: Travel may broaden the mind, but managers taking on a global leadership role need more...

According to Thunderbird’s Mansour Javidan and Jennie Walker they need to develop a ‘global mindset’. In a recent article in Mobility, Javidan and Walker define the key attributes leaders need to work on and suggest a series of ‘global readiness’ strategies they can undertake before leaving home – strategies that should also be employed by HR professionals to ensure their organization’s future leaders are ready for the complex challenges of global leadership.

In his 1869 autobiographical work Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain described travel as “fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”, arguing that “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime”. Conversely working abroad or managing a diverse global team requires “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things” – in other words a global mindset.

In 2014 business leaders operate in an irrevocably global world, but many have not yet appreciated what this means. In previous decades the business community largely assumed globalization would be about the convergence of the developing world with the traditional US/European model. Clearly this has not happened. Rather, due to fundamental differences in outlook, institutions, behaviour and the rise of BRIC economies and other emerging markets, the global business community is more characterized by divergence. The current reality of globalization is that people are not finding common ground and thus huge opportunities for growth are being lost.

Any organization aiming to grasp these opportunities and planning to build a sustainable global presence must develop leaders with specific skills and attitudes that can be effective in a global context. Previously in preparing employees for relocation abroad HR professionals turned to various cross-cultural training resources. But now as leadership roles have become more global (i.e. across more countries), fast-paced and complex cultural understanding though important is not enough. “Leaders must also be knowledgeable about and skilled at adapting to diverse customer, competitive, political, and regulatory environments while navigating business realities” say Javidan and Walker.

Dr. Mansour Javidan is executive director and Dr. Jennie Walker director of global learning and market development at the Najafi Global Mindset Institute at Thunderbird School of Global Management. In the Mobility article they point to nine key dimensions of a global mindset, which they group under these three categories:

1.      Global intellectual capital

2.      Global psychological capital

3.      Global social capital

“Together, the dynamic interplay among cognitive, psychological, and behavioral attributes needed for global leadership constitute a global mindset” they say, suggesting a series of actions individuals can take, and HR professionals support, to develop their global mindsets. The nine dimensions, originally identified through a scientific research process, also form the basis of the Institite's Global Mindset Inventory, an assessment tool that measures these dimensions and assertains an individual's progress towards global leadership readiness.

For a leader taking up a global role, intellectual capital can be developed relatively quickly through cognitive learning (reading, analyzing, problem solving, etc.) and can be largely self-directed, whereas the development of psychological and social capital involves more long-term experiential learning, interactions with different kinds of people, reflection and support from mentors and L&D professionals. The aim is not for the individual to master all nine dimensions of the global mindset; the key thing is to identify where to place development efforts and to craft an action plan to build some valuable ‘capital’ before he or she leaves home.

Illustrations: 1) A Classic Comic cover, 1946. The chronicle of Marco Polo’s travels to China from Venice introduced Europeans to Central Asia and China and inspired Christopher Columbus - Source: Wikimedia Commons. 2) Thunderbird School of Global Management 

Further Information

Read the article in Mobility (see pages 54-60)

Thunderbird’s Global Leadership Summit

Executive Development at Thunderbird School of Global Management 


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