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Competencies for Successful Global Leaders

Updated: May 23, 2023

Advanced Leadership development to include People Skills.

Global Leaders and HR Departments are not in tune

The majority of global leadership competency frameworks that are endorsed by HR Departments are typically more than 15-20 years old and simply don’t cover the wealth of competencies required for today’s global leaders.

This is apparent every time we run a brainstorming session and ask global leaders to list the competencies that they feel are important to their success. When we ask them to cross-reference this with the list of competencies their HR Departments provide training for, we find a large discrepancy between the competencies trained by HR Departments and the competencies global leaders state they need.

The investment shortfall in intrapersonal skills is evident as HR Departments typically focus on the old school philosophy of leadership development. The opportunity to give their global senior managers the head start they need through intrapersonal skills is therefore missed.

Emotional Intelligence, understanding self, and being able to read others behaviors and intentions are critical skills needed for successful global leadership roles.

Humanity is doing a bad job at figuring out leadership from a cultural perspective

There are hundreds of western philosophy leadership books available, many of which are read globally and are pushed as the right leadership thinking.

Every culture has something to say about leadership, which is perceived as right or wrong. We’re not here to argue for one particular leadership theory, but rather to highlight that, while the western world may be convinced that their way of leadership is the best way, this simply does not reflect what global leaders need.

Leadership is a context sensitive exercise that needs to be culturally adapted to its environment. Global leaders must learn to investigate not only the context of the situation, but also the cultural dynamics that are at play.

Unfortunately there is limited information and training that supports global leaders in developing the competencies needed to achieve this.

Available expertise that should be listened to

The author of “The Managers Guide to Globalization”, Dr. Stephen H. Rhinesmith believes the ability to develop an effective global strategy and structure, and then align and execute it through an appropriate corporate culture ultimately depends on the global manager's people skills.

“In the end, global leadership is all about people and one’s ability to understand and empathize with people who have very different views of the world. Since 90% of the world’s population is relationship-oriented first and task-oriented second, it is very difficult to be a successful global leader without the ability to establish authentic relations with a diversity of talented people around the world who are needed to make any global venture a success. - Stephen Rhinesmith

Rhinesmith’s work focuses on how to navigate complexity, diversity and uncertainty in different economic and cultural environments, and his book is particularly useful for global managers and HR professionals that seek to be the best.

Kozai’s GCI framework represents a beautiful overview of the competencies that are essential for global leaders and gives a foundational approach for the development managers require to be successful global leaders.

Created in 2000, it factors Inter-Cultural Intelligence and People Skills across three categories: Perception Management, Relationship Management, and Self Management.

Perception Management includes areas such as non-judgementalism, tolerance of ambiguity and cosmopolitanism. It examines the way people think about others who don’t share our cultural norms and ultimately our behavior toward those people.

Relationship Management includes areas such as interpersonal engagements, self-awareness and behavioral flexibility. The development of positive relationships in an intercultural environment is a critical aspect of effective performance in working globally and this area assesses our orientation toward the importance of relationships, attentiveness toward others’ interpersonal attributes that help nurture and maintain relationships, and awareness of our self-concept and the impact our behavior has on others.

Self Management includes areas such as self-confidence, emotional resilience, and stress management. To be effective in a global context, we must be able to understand and adapt to the foreign environment and its people, yet be able to maintain a stable sense of self in order to remain mentally and emotionally healthy, so this area assesses our strength of identity and belief in, and tendency to care for, the ’self.’

How can we develop Inter-Cultural and People Skills competencies in global leaders?

At KnowledgeWorkx we believe in a combination of thought leadership from Rhinesmith and the Kozai Group, amongst others. We have provided the support needed to upgrade traditional leadership development thinking, which incorporates advanced competencies and measurements that global leaders feel they need.

To implement this change, HR departments and global competencies training need to progress to the next level by developing a global competency model that includes Inter-Cultural Intelligence and People Skills.

With this in place, HR departments and corporations can then provide the competency training that is crucial for the success of today’s global manager.

KnowledgeWorkx are certified trainers of the Kozai Group’s Global Competencies Inventory. Companies interested in global leadership development using competencies that the Kozai group is advocating should contact us.


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