ATD Blog

The Global Mindset Leader: An Interview with i4cp’s Jay Jamrog

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

As our world, both business and personal, becomes more conjoined, thought leaders are questioning the ways in which high performance organizations encourage those who can lead across cultures and countries, and the leadership behaviors that drive both influence and collaboration. Jay Jamrog, senior vice president of research at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has some ideas on this subject. 

Two terms Jamrog defines are inclusive leadership and leaders with a global mindset. To start, he explains that inclusive “is the ability to include people into whatever you’re working on. There are two big parts of being an inclusive leader. The first is to demonstrate an awareness of the differences in people—their backgrounds and customs. You can’t stay in your cultural cocoon if you want to become an inclusive leader; you have to get out. The second part is establishing productive relationships with people from different cultures.” 

However, according to Jamrog, before someone can become inclusive leader, he needs a global mindset. 

Establishing a Global Mindset 

Jamrog is quick to clarify that a global mindset has nothing to do with being a global company. Instead, he finds that it has more to do with how someone thinks as a leader and his awareness of and respect for the differences of the people who work around him. 

“You could be in a matrix organization heading a team where one person may be on the east coast of the U.S., one may be in China, and another in Eastern Europe. Having a global mindset is being aware of the differences in talent coming to the table. Becoming a leader with a global mindset is a contact sport. You can take courses, but it’s all about contact—getting out of your cultural comfort zone and into different experiences and different learning,” he says.   

Jamrog insists that companies have to start training managers very early in their careers to become global mindset leaders. If organizations wait too long, there is a negative correlation with leadership effectiveness. But how do you identify someone early? 

You need both subjective and objective measures, Jamrog explains. Once you’ve identified an employee who may have the potential to develop a global mindset, you need to know what you’re assessing him for, and you need the right assessment tools. Basic hard skills, such as business and financial acumen, would be traditional for your frontline supervisors, and those skills are highly correlated with leadership effectiveness. 

However, says Jamrog, the behaviors underneath them are not necessarily correlated with market performance. These are the softer, social skills—things like influencing fellow employees, collaboration, and building trust. To be effective today a leader must have more of these social skills, especially those that have to do with technology. Today’s team leader needs to learn to use various kinds of social tools to influence colleagues, get those around the world to collaborate, and build trust even with colleagues he may never meet face-to-face.  


To develop a program with social skills and a global mindset as the primary goals, traditional classroom-based/instructor-led training is the best and most effective method. That setting has proved to have high correlations with performance and leadership among executives. In those companies where they use classrooms purposefully to bring the right people together to create that environment, they were able to start developing the many social skills and partnerships a future leader will need in his career. Jamrog found the content of those classes wasn’t as important as how the class was constructed, and who was in the class. 

Experiential Learning as the Best Teacher 

The next best practice is putting future leaders into experiential learning programs with games, exercises, role-playing, and simulations. “These have been around for a while, but we’re seeing that by putting people into games and role-playing exercises in environments where they are out of their cultural comfort zones, growth occurs. An example would be participating in a case study or role play where you’re asked to build a team, work on a project, and do it in a different cultural environment,” says Jamrog. 

“It’s not just what you learn as a skill, but what you learn from behaviors by participating in a global task force on an international assignment. For instance, a white male might be put into a group of African American females, which might be out of his comfort zone. Once a person has such an experience, it’s much easier for him, as a leader, to have a better understanding of people who come from different backgrounds and to understand what motivates people with different mindsets,” he adds. 

From the beginning, leaders with global mindsets differ from others because they have an awareness and respect for people with different backgrounds. It’s a subtle thing; they know how to influence and engage others without being the boss and they are able to build trust. There are many nuances in how you influence people who don’t report to you or aren’t even employees (they may be contractors). If 30 percent of the workforce doesn’t report to you, how do you influence them? That’s a whole different thing from command and control at the top. 

There are two big trends that are causing this kind of situation to happen, asserts Jamrog. One, he explains, is the fact that 75 percent of the workers around the world aren’t full-time employees. In fact, 30 percent of works in the United States are non-traditional workers, rather than full-time employees, and that percentage is growing. “One of the current issues for supervisors and mid-level managers is to be able to manage that kind of workforce. How do you blend them together? How do you get them to collaborate and be on a team together?” 

The other trend is toward highly matrixed organizations and that is changing the art of leadership. “Those who are effective at leading people who do not report to them are going to have to leverage their social skills. Most organizations haven’t caught up with this yet, although they realize the challenges they face,” says Jamrog.


Deconstructing Work 

There are a lot of old-school leaders, who grew up in hierarchical systems, at the top of companies now. They tend to think, “If I don’t see you in the office, you must not be working.” It’s going to take a new way of thinking about how work gets done and is organized.  

Jamrog describes how John Boudreau, professor of management and organization at the University of California’s Marshall School of Business, is making the case for deconstructing work to see what parts of the work need what kind of talent. “What kind of leadership has to be involved? We don’t think of workforce planning as that, but workforce planning should be about looking at the role you’re planning for, deconstructing that role, and finding out what talent you need to fill that role whether it’s a contractor, a full-time employee, or a talent aggregator. Where is that talent going to come from, and what kinds of leadership do we need for that talent?” 

Talent may be anywhere around the world, says Jamrog, which leads to several questions. “How do you keep such a workforce engaged? How do you collaborate with them? How do you build the trust you need as a leader when you may not ever see an employee? We know how to do that when we’re face-to-face with people. Of course, a lot of good leaders do that naturally, but when you’re not face-to-face, you have to use social technology—email, conference calls, Skype—to build trust and collaboration. It goes back to the priority of the company—the core work that needs to be done, and then deconstructing that work.”  

Senior learning executives must be invested in getting their peers and middle managers to become inclusive leaders. “First of all, when senior leadership does not own leadership development, it is usually ineffective. The best companies have a senior leadership council/team that owns training for global leadership. It’s not just an HR priority; it’s an organizational one. When given a priority at the top level, it tends to have a high correlation of success, and when it doesn’t, the opposite is true,” Jamrog says. 

There are a number of things leaders have to do to be involved. They should participate in some of the talent reviews; they should talk to managers about these talent reviews, and about which people are the brightest stars on the horizon. 

Another good strategy for developing global leaders is mentoring. Once people are identified as top talent, leaders should start mentoring them, not just coaching them. Jamrog defines mentoring as giving advice on how to handle the politics in a company. For him, coaching is more like teaching. Mentoring is like putting your arms around someone and saying I’ll help you navigate the system, introduce you to the right people, and tell you what to avoid. 

“Many people at the top don’t ask tough questions often enough. Many times they delegate leadership development to L&D or HR. Leadership development is so important for the sustainability of a company that it should be a priority for senior leadership. For example, senior leaders need to ask: What do we want to accomplish with our leadership development program? What kinds of behaviors do we want to result from the program? How do we measure whether someone is successful at this? L&D and HR have to help the senior leadership team ask those questions—and answer them.” 

About the Author

Ruth Palombo Weiss is a business writer. 

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