How to Overcome Challenges All Global Leaders Face

Friday, August 28, 2015


Challenges of Global Leadership
“What are your biggest challenges in developing the next generation of global leaders?”

This was the question I raised in April to 25 chief talent and learning officers (CTLOs) from top-tier organizations that represented 25 business sectors.

Although these leaders set the learning policies for millions of employees, one of their shared fundamentals beliefs was that individuals primarily learn from experience. In fact, many quoted a finding from Morgan McCall in High Flyers: 70 percent of learning comes from experience, 20 percent comes from co-workers, and only 10 percent comes from traditional training and development programs.

A second key piece of research they often cited comes from a 2014 Institute for Corporate Productivity and Society for Human Resource Management study on global leadership, Global Leadership Development: Preparing Leaders for a Globalized Market. The report revealed that companies with a distinct global leadership curriculum are more profitable than those that simply integrate global leadership training into their general leadership training.

Finally, many of the CTLOs also mentioned this statistic from Insead’s Hal Gregersen—50 percent of expats leave their organizations within a year of returning home. However, this number is reduced to 25 percent if the expats and their families receive repatriation training upon returning home, and it drops to 10 percent when repatriate training begins prior to their return.


It is well worth these CTLOs’ time to overcome these challenges. In the book The Innovator’s DNA, the authors demonstrate that expats are responsible for 35 percent more innovations than comparable employees who have not been on an international assignment.
6 Tips for Building Global Leadership

Based on the collective wisdom of these 25 leaders, here are recommendations for companies that want to build the next generation of global leaders.

  1. Talent development teams should create long- and short-term international assignments in which their future leaders will be immersed in another culture. This experience is one of the most critical aspects of gaining the humility, vulnerability, and multiple perspectives necessary to mold the mindset of global leaders.

  2. International immersion programs should begin early in the careers of next-generation global leaders. Many prominent organizations have created intricate global immersion programs for high-potential young leaders to experience working and living in unfamiliar settings.

  3. Sending people of any age overseas without proper training and development is a waste of time and money and will likely result in early termination or the employee leaving the company. Help international assignees develop realistic expectations of the host country and the challenges they will face. Additionally, the receiving manager and team must be prepared to help clarify any cultural differences.

  4. Communicate frequently with international assignees. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a dangerous situation for those on international assignments. If the organization fails to communicate with its assignees and doesn’t prepare for proper succession planning, there is a good chance it will lose them—either after they return home or while they’re still on their international assignment.

  5. Repatriation training for the entire family is an essential part of any successful international assignment. Few organizations or expat families realize the unexpected stress associated with returning home. Unfortunately, home will not be what it was—it will have changed significantly. This includes changes in the workplace, among friends and family, and among the expats and their family members.

  6. Unconscious bias can affect the selection of high-potential candidates and those chosen for international assignments. Those involved in the selection process must be trained to be aware of their hidden biases, which often cause them to select people more like themselves. These biases can rob the organization of the diverse talent needed in today’s global business environment. Ideally, those in the selection process have been overseas and have had training that allows them to select candidates using business-related criteria.

If you are in the process of developing or implementing a global leadership program for new leaders, please send me a note on what you are doing so I can include it in future columns on best practices. Please send your thoughts or inquiries to, or leave them in the comments.

About the Author
Neal Goodman is an internationally recognized authority on globalization, global mindset development, and cultural competence for global corporations. His programs have helped hundreds of thousands of corporate executives to be more effective in international settings by learning how to apply a global mindset. Global Dynamics, the company he co-founded in 1983, designs, organizes, and implements programs that support global mindset development, cultural competence, global team building, global leadership, virtual workforce effectiveness, and diversity and inclusion in leading Fortune 500 companies that wish to succeed in the global arena. As CEO of GDI, he leads a team of more than 400 innovative, cross-cultural experts from around the globe to create in-person, blended, and web-based solutions for his clients.
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