AMA Reports Little Progress in Global Leadership Development
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Despite the growing imperative for organizations to adopt a global mindset, it seems few have made little progress toward that goal during the past year. This was the finding of a new study, “Global Leadership Development: Knowledge Immersion Now,” issued by the American Management Association and i4cp.

The study featured the findings of a survey of more than 1,000 senior business and human resource executives from 57 countries. 

While the proportion of firms addressing global leadership grew from 31 percent in 2010 to 44 percent in 2014, a majority of organizations still have yet to make an effort to develop a global mindset, according to the survey, which has been conducted yearly since 2010. Even among large employers, just 54 percent maintain a current focus on global leadership, either as part of a distinct global leadership development program or within a general leadership development curriculum. 

At the same time, organizations have grown more critical of their programs’ overall effectiveness, as compared to prior years. In 2010, 42 percent considered their programs to have been effective, either to a high or very high extent. In 2014, however, that dropped to 19 percent. Although the “effective” rating was higher among large employers, it was just barely so, at 21 percent. 

“The latest findings reflect the sad state of global leadership development, yet they also may guide future improvement” said Jennifer Jones, director at AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of American Management Association that provides organizations with assessment, measurement, and tailored training solutions. “Indeed, for companies investing millions in creating a global leadership outlook, there seems little to show for it.” 

“Developing leaders with global skills and competencies is about enabling the organization to operate more effectively on a global basis,” said Jones. “But it’s also about creating a more inclusive culture and equipping leaders to be better at collaborating with, coaching, and influencing employees of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and customs. Global leadership isn’t just the ‘latest trend,’ but something essential for an organization’s future growth and success.” 

According to Kevin Martin, chief research officer for i4cp, the new study identified several elements that promise to improve program effectiveness in a meaningful way. “Companies have to ratchet up efforts to develop leaders with global skills and competencies…preferably within a distinct global leadership development program, but at least by including such curriculum within a general leadership development program.” 


The study offers four recommendations: 

Focus selection on behaviors, not buddies. Selection of participants in global leadership development programs is best made with objective evidence by those who have observed and documented behaviors related to skills and competencies, as well as the individual’s performance track record and the use of behavioral assessments. 

Look longer-term; it pays off. Develop curriculum based on the future-focused skills and competency needs of the business.

Global leaders should be both collaborative and influential. These skills are brought to bear in teaching employees with diverse learning styles and in leading virtual teams.

Global leaders must develop local knowledge. Immersion in the cultures and customs of local markets is essential for creating a global leadership development curriculum, building competencies, and delivering learning.

Jennifer Jones noted: “The good news is that companies now think more broadly about global leadership development and have higher expectations for such programs. Companies worldwide, both public and private, as well as governments, want their employees to master the global skills and competencies needed to work optimally with customers, suppliers, colleagues, and distributors from a wide variety of cultures around the world.” 

For a copy of the white paper, go to the AMA website.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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