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Global Leadership and its Effects on Businesses Today

Leadership has been a complex concept characterized by many theoretical explanations which try to explain the right leadership style. There has been significant development made in mastering the phenomenon. However, another twist emerged, which is global leadership. This is leadership practiced in global organizations. There are few successful global leaders who have managed to master the challenges that characterize the complex global market. There are specific qualities and characteristics that a global leader should posses in order to lead an organization successfully across the diverse cultural boundaries. There are also emerging trends in the global market, which means that global leaders will have to be agile and responsive to change. However, it is important that the leader be able to identify these changes in order to know how to respond (Moral & Moral, 2009).
Dimensions of Globalization
The evolving global context has presented many leadership challenges to executives, because of some aspects of complexity in the global market. These aspects together present several business challenges that are mostly unforeseen and inherently unpredictable. The first dimension is multiplicity, which reflects the increase in number and type of issues that global leaders have to deal with compared to those leading domestic firms. Therefore, they not only have to deal with more issues but also different. These include more and different competitors, customers, stakeholders as well as governments. This is in addition to multiplicity in all aspects along the value chain (Mendenhall, 2008).
The second dimension of globalization is interdependence whereby the distributed units consisting of people, capital and information are no longer isolated and hence global leaders have to manage systems of human and technological interaction that are complex than those of domestic leaders. The interdependence between economies has increased significantly and global organizations have relationships with others through mergers, joint ventures, alliances and virtual teamwork. All these create a higher standard in terms of performance and the set of skills required. Thirdly, there is the element of ambiguity. The global context is characterized by unclear cause- effect relationships, lack of information clarity as well as equivocality concerning information. For instance, there can be multiple interpretations of the same facts (Mendenhall, 2008).
The fourth dimension of global complexity is change, whereby the whole system is always changing and always in motion. Although change is found in the domestic context change in the global perspective is happening at a faster rate. There is an ongoing change in organizational structure, system dynamics, industry trends, values and sociopolitical stability. These four aspects of global complexity show the need of global leaders who must have exceptional competencies. Although competencies of traditional or domestic leadership are necessary to lead globally the global context presents such high demand on the use of those competencies. As a result, the skill level and deployment demands render the phenomenon so different which makes it different in kind to traditional leadership (Mendenhall, 2008).
Emerging Trends for Future Global leadership
Globalization is here to stay and is manifested in organizations but also in our daily lives. Families and friends are today able to interact without fearing the national boundaries. A case in point is the face book whereby individuals can interact between two countries that are many miles apart. This therefore calls for a change in leadership styles to be able to cope with these changes. There are factors that should be considered by an organization that will be important in future leadership (Goldsmith, Bennis, Robertson, Greenberg & Hu-Chan, 2003).
Thinking Globally
There is a growing trend towards a globally connected market, which will eventually become stronger. Therefore, leaders need to understand the economic and legal as well as political and legal consequences of doing business. As a result, the leaders will have to adopt a global perspective of the organization. This global thinking will be necessary as shown by the projections of a dramatic increase in global trade as well as integrated global technology. Leaders will need to learn how to manage the functions of management such as marketing, production and managing of sales teams from a global perspective. Leaders will be required to have an understanding of and be able to lead across global regions. As economic blocks are formed and key economies are merging such as the European Union successful leaders are those who will be able to use technology to break business barriers. For example, an organization should be able to coordinate computer programmers in Japan (Asia) who link with product designers in Germany (Europe) and manufacturers in Kenya (Africa) (Goldsmith, 2003).
Managers can be helped to gain knowledge and experience to think in a global perspective through many ways. These include long-term foreign postings and short-term assignments in other locations. The company can organize frequent overseas visits and participation in multicultural projects. Furthermore, general exposure to people and ideas of different cultures can be achieved through professional and personal associations, reading, films and academic courses. On the other hand, employees can be introduced to the global perspective through training on the different cultures which they will be required to operate. The leadership can hire an expert who has a thorough understanding of the specific culture. If such measures are not taken to help members of the organization to have an understanding of the different impacts of globalization then the organization will find it difficult to operate in diverse cultures (Goldsmith, 2003).
Appreciating Cultural Diversity
Future leaders will need to understand and appreciate cultural diversity. This includes appreciating different leadership styles and industry styles. It also includes diversity of individual behaviors, gender and races. To be able to work around the world and across different nations, regions and states of diverse people with different cultures, the leader will be required to understand their economic and legal differences as well as their social and motivational differences. This will put them in a strategic position to deal with the cultures and do business with them to the benefit of the company and all the other stakeholders (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2007).
Although cultural diversity presents numerous challenges to businesses those that are able to use the differences to their advantage will obviously have a competitive advantage over their rivals. Understanding others cultures will not just be a good business practice but also a factor for competing in the future. Some of the main issues of culture that the leader will need to understand include religious matters and the roles of the different genders. However, there are also some small issues such as interpretation of time meaning of gifts greetings and other non-verbal signs. Understanding of these cultures will be important in providing global leadership, because business operations always involve interaction of people and cultures (Moua, 2010).
Developing Technological Savvy
Future global leaders will be required to have a practical understanding on how to use technology effectively to the benefit of the organization. Organizational change together with technological innovation in planning, producing, managing, delivering and communicating, will result in global organizations becoming virtual networks operating through technology. In addition, information and communication systems will become the backbone of the global company. Furthermore, electronic commerce will be a common culture of global organizations which brings in the need for technology leadership. Although most executives today are not directly responsible for their information technology systems future global leaders will need to have an understanding of strategic application of technology and will be required to lead the company in using the technology (Goldsmith, Bennis, Robertson, Greenberg & Hu-Chan, 2003).
Unfortunately many leaders today still view technological shrewdness as important for operations and staff people only. However, future leaders will need to have a complete shift in thinking whereby they must view technological as an integrated part of their lives and this means they cannot do without it. This in any way does not mean that everyone should be a computer scientist or a gifted technician. It only means that the global leader should show a practical understanding in managing technology within the organization, to enable the company to maximally realize the benefits of technology and have a competitive advantage over its rivals. Therefore, the global leader needs to understand how the intelligent use of technology can help the organization. The leader also needs to recruit, nurture and maintain a network of people who are technically competent as well as know how to create and manage investments in the new technology. In addition, the global leader should be a positive role model in leading in the use of the new technology (Goldsmith, Bennis, Robertson, Greenberg & Hu-Chan, 2003).
Building Partnerships and Alliances
Presently more organizations are forming alliances. In the future, this trend is bound to take a dramatic stride. As organizations are downsizing, restructuring and reengineering, outsourcing will become the norm. Organizations will be striving to outsource all activities except the core, brand related ones. Therefore, leaders will be required to have the ability to negotiate complex alliances as well as manage complex relationship networks. In addition, joint leadership of new models of business will be important for a successful global venture. Therefore, in order to develop and operate efficiently under these new, complex and changing social structure, future leaders will need to operate within alliances, joint ventures and partnerships like never before. Hence, any leader that tries to maintain the status quo is bound to fail (Kennedy, 2009).
Some characters that future global leaders will be required to have include being culturally attuned to be able to deal with the diverse cultures; less controlling, as there will be sharing of leadership; emotionally astute, to be able to engender the goodwill and trust of the followers. In addition, future leaders must be willing to share authority and decision making responsibilities. This will be very important because future leadership will require teams of collaborative leaders to work together, whereby each will be have a contribution to make because each will all have the required effective global leadership skills. Leaders will also be faced with the changing role of customers, suppliers and partners. Previously, customers and collaborators were viewed as friends who should be embraced, while competitors as enemies who should be defeated. In the future, these roles are bound to change, because organizations will be focused on building long-term, positive, win-win relationships. Therefore, any organization that is positioned strategically will be a potential partner (Kennedy, 2009).
Sharing Leadership
One requirement of future global leadership will be sharing leadership. One of the dimensions of global complexity is ambiguity, whereby there are no clear cause-effect relationships as well as different interpretations of the same facts. As a result, no single leader can be good at everything. Hence, shared leadership will be the only excellent way to do business in global companies. Chief Executive Officers will no longer have the monopoly of decision-making and hence they will have to create an environment in which other leaders who have a common vision can collaborate to make effective decisions. Successful global leaders will work towards integration and not control (Goldsmith, 2003).
To encourage the right and confident people to work together as well as to engage them in creative thinking the leader must learn how to create a social architecture that provides freedom and eliminates fear. The leaders will need to adopt new model that help in dealing with knowledge workers (people who know more abut their specialization than their managers do). The leaders will also need to have skills for hiring and retaining talent. No one individual is able to have all these capabilities and this emphasizes the need for shared leadership. In addition, the nature of organizations will change, whereby they will be merged, outsourced, and allianced and virtual. All these will create the need for shared leadership, hence. Hence, executive teams will be a key feature in leadership and there will be few single Chief Executive Officers (Moral & Moral, 2009)
Effective Global Leader Characteristics
There are various observable and measurable characteristics that a persons needs to have to be a successful global leader such as inquisitiveness and perspective. Other traits are character as well as savvy. Inquisitiveness is the core characteristic and is the fuel that keeps global leaders moving ahead, managing differences and spanning boundaries. Instead of being exhausted by the differences in languages, time zones, politics and laws, a global leader is intrigued by them. The leader views them as learning opportunities and he is hence, invigorated instead of being exhausted. Therefore, leaders who are not constantly curious and inquisitive will develop mental maps that will entrench and constrict their worldview in such a way that they will reject any change that does not fit their already formed mental map (Mobley, 2006).
The second characteristic is perspective, which entails how leaders look at the world. The pressures for integration and local adaptation are accompanied by different uncertainties. Global leaders should be ready to embrace these uncertain occurrences and be invigorated by them. Tensions are created by duality dynamics and these need to be balanced. Although most leaders will seek ways of avoiding one pressure in favor of another when faced with competing demands, global leaders should view such situations as opportunities to develop innovative solutions. The third characteristic is character, which has two components, which are emotional connection and unwavering integrity. To have successful global initiatives one must be able to attract trust and goodwill from people outside the formal lines of authority. However, while connecting to people emotionally, one must exhibit unwavering integrity, which is also important in attracting goodwill and trust (Linkage Inc (2006).
Fourthly, there is savvy, which refers to shrewdness or practical understanding. It is also important that the leader have the ability to attract and retain the employees’ commitment and loyalty, because employees today have many alternative employment opportunities and can desert the leader or abandon the team at any slight opportunity (Black, Morrison, Gregersen, 1999). Business savvy on the other hand refers to the leader’s ability to manage duality dynamics. In addition, he or she needs to be able to figure out how to satisfy simultaneously both local and global demands in order to maximize on the profit-making opportunities for the business (Mobley, 2006).
Duality: The Essence of Global Perspective
This concept is explained by the phrase “Think global, act local.” It captures the core of what is complex about global leadership and is explained in two views. On one hand, if the world were truly borderless and similar, challenges in both global leadership and domestic leadership would be the same. Hence, universal leadership would be perfectly applicable. On the other hand, if the world comprised of some places that were totally different, it would be needless to think about global strategies, integrated customer relationship management or coordinated supply chains. Hence, every business operation would be planned and employed locally. However, successful global leaders are so rare, because business have to deal with pressures and opportunities of global integration as well as the requirements pressures of local responsiveness (Black, Morrison, Gregersen, 1999).
The concept therefore, suggests that there is a simultaneous existence of contradictory conditions and their continued coexistence is viewed as beneficial. Therefore, through effective global leadership, such dualities can benefit the business world. However, the leadership must have a perspective that allows opposing conditions to occur simultaneously and that delights in their coexistence. As global companies traverse across culture, country and language borders, they are faced with the challenge of learning to get the right mix at the appropriate time. They also face the challenge of learning and relearning what the different markets really want. Therefore, global leaders who want to have globally competitive firms must learn to develop duality instead of working to kill it. With this perspective, they will be able to master numerous border crossings instead of being overwhelmed by them. Hence, this perspective balances both local and global as well as action and inaction (Black, Morrison, Gregersen, 1999). Various ways in which the duality concept can b put to practice are explained below.
Embracing vs. Avoiding Ambiguity
The simultaneous duality of local and global pressures as well as opportunities results in a lot of ambiguities. As a result, ambiguity is inevitable in the global business world. Therefore, one of the key determinants of a global leader is whether he or she avoids or embraces ambiguity. To test a person propensity towards ambiguity does not need a personality test, because it comes out naturally and in specific but simple ways. Those that hate ambiguity are always ready to complain and blame when faced with unclear situations. They will always blame someone, mostly from high up the chain of command. Conversely, those who embrace ambiguity will always be invigorated when faced with it, because they like it. Instead of complaining, they appreciate the opportunity presented by ambiguity. To them ambiguity means there are there more possibilities and more avenues to the solution. They therefore, use the opportunity to reinvent, discover and learn (Stahl, Ingmar Björkman, 2006).
Global integration vs. local responsiveness
A global organization is obviously composed of a set of subsidiaries that operate in their respective local markets and must be sufficiently differentiated to meet demands of the locals. Local may be regions, countries or smaller regions within a country. If such a company fails to respond to local needs, it might not compete successfully against more agile and responsive rivals that have adapted their offerings to the local needs and preferences of the locals. On the other hand, a global company is a single organization, which needs to coordinate out-spread operations to maximize on the benefits of scale and scope. If a global company does not realize these benefits, it remains as a collection of independent entities. As a result, it will be missing on most of its potential benefits (Stahl, Ingmar Björkman, 2006).
Ensuring Customer Satisfaction
All business activities should first be directed towards the satisfaction of customers, because without them there is no business. The global leader should know that leading an organization to success entails having exceptional customer service, motivated employees, quality products and services as well as customer feedback and understanding competition. Therefore, leaders who are able to master the skills needed in this new environment will reap tremendous advantages. However, those who stick to ways that were successful in the past will only be doing that at their own disadvantage. New ways to be adopted by a successful global organization include changing with the customer, seeking customer input, keeping commitments and understanding the competition (Goldsmith, 2003).
Changing with the Customer
There has been a significant change in customer behavior over the last decade, which has reshaped the market as well as forced many companies to change to be able to serve the new markets. For instance, many customers especially business customers are no longer buying standalone products. Successful organizations need to adopt new and different organizational structures, skills and systems. As a result, many companies are entering in to mergers and alliances with other companies that offer complementary products and services. This enables them to provide more targeted products and services and hence be more competitive in the market. The emergence of many technology innovations has enabled companies to provide customized solutions that are incorporated in non-core products and services. In the past, the idea of selling non-core products was almost unheard of. However, today it has become a common place and companies are largely adopting it to the benefit of customers and to the benefit of the company in the long run (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2007).
The readily access to the internet and technology has enabled the customer to learn more about a company’s offerings than ever. They are able to make comparisons based on the product and pricing information across the web. This trend is likely to continue in to the future, whereby consumers will be more demanding as well as request for more information and more involvement. In addition, they need to demonstrate responsibility and be accountable to their customers or else, the customers will desert them to other competitors (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2007).
Customer Input
To achieve customer satisfaction, an organization must seek for customer input, which will enable them to determine if the customers are satisfied or what will make or keep them satisfied. The effective global leader will always seek to retain the existing customers rather than acquiring new ones, because he or she understands that it is costly to regain new customers than it is to retain the existing ones. A company should focus on good service and quality products as a way of achieving a satisfied and loyal customer base. However, to achieve quality and satisfaction as perceived by the customer, the company needs to put in place feedback avenues. These include toll-free customer service numbers, through which customers with complaints can call (Gantz, 2009).
Asking the customer, is the best way of determining their satisfaction. A global leader should understand that follow-up to customer feedback is very important. Therefore, the company should encourage customers to participate continuously in feedback processes. The process should not only consist of appreciation but also communication of changes made, due to customer’s feedback. This is important because, direct input can change a company’s focus to what really matters and prevent the company from making poor business decisions (Gantz, 2009).
Keeping Commitments
Commitment is a common word used in the business world and almost every business professes some form of commitment. This can be commitment to excellence, customers or quality. However, not all companies keep their promises. Commitment begins with a set of beliefs, which are then adhered to through action. A global leader of the future uses customer feedback to find out how well the company is keeping its leadership, product and service commitments. The leader can also review returns and allowances, whereby if it is high, then customers are indicating dissatisfaction with the products and services. The leader can also review internal rejects. If the rejects are high then that indicates that the company is producing the wrong product to the customers (Goldsmith, Bennis, Robertson, Greenberg & Hu-Chan, 2003).
Understanding the Competition
Global leaders will be required to truly understand their competition, as this will be part of their organizational function. They will to provide organizational environments, which ensure that employees spend adequate time on learning the rapidly changing customer environments. Instead of just learning the basic skills needed in producing and selling a product, organizational members will need to develop skills required in solving complex problems and the ability to maintain diverse relationships, locally and globally. The notion of just defeating the other person will not always be the right answer in the future, because today’s competitors might turn out to be tomorrow’s customer. Therefore, global leaders will need to ensure that competitors also view them as tough but fair as well as a good potential partner (Goldsmith, Bennis, Robertson, Greenberg & Hu-Chan, 2003).
Effective global leaders will also have to demonstrate some characteristics, which will help them to thrive in the complex global environment. Further more, a global leader needs to master the concept of duality, because the global environment is characterized by ambiguity, which can be beneficial to the organization if handled carefully. Lastly, the global leader should focus on achieving customer satisfaction. This includes changing with the customer, appreciating customer input and commitment as well as understanding competition.

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