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How To Prepare Your Future Global Leaders

Recently, I asked 25 chief talent and learning officers about their biggest challenges in developing the next generation of global leaders. As the head learning professionals at top tier organizations in 25 different business sectors, these leaders set the learning policies for millions of employees. A fundamental belief of these CTLOs was that the greatest amount of learning by individuals in organizations is from experience. In fact, many quoted a finding by Morgan McCall in High Flyers that 70 percent of learning comes from experience, 20 percent from co-workers and only 10 percent from traditional training and development programs.  

A second key piece of research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Society for Human Resources management report on global leadership revealed that companies that have a distinct global leadership curriculum are more profitable than those that simply integrate global leadership training as a part of their general leadership training. 

A final piece of research from Insead’s Hal Gregersen, agreed upon by most of the CTLOs, was that 50 percent of expats were going to leave their organizations within a year of return home. However, this number is reduced to 25 percent if the expatriate and family received repatriation training upon returning home and reduced to 10 percent when repatriate training begins prior to the families’ return home. 

Research by Jeffery Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen in the Innovators DNA demonstrated that expats are responsible for 35 percent more innovations than comparable employees who lacked an international assignment. 


What conclusions can be made from this combination of research and some of the brightest minds in talent and learning? 

  • Training and development organizations must undertake to 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 learning the humility, vulnerability, and need to see the world from multiple perspectives necessary to mold the mindset of global leaders.
  • It is vitally important that the international immersion programs begin early in the careers of the next generation of global leaders. Many organizations have created intricate global immersion programs for high-potential young leaders to experience working and living in unfamiliar settings.
  • Sending people of any age overseas without proper training and development is a waste of time and money and will likely result in the early termination of employment or the employee leaving the company. International assignees and their receiving hosts must learn to develop realistic expectations of the new host country and the challenges they face, and the receiving manger and team must be prepared to help bridge any cultural differences based on their own cultural training.
  • The entire process of an international immersion experience must contain a continuous contact process that assures communication between the assignee and the leaders in their home country. Out of sight, out of mind is a very dangerous situation for those on international assignments. If organizations fail to communicate with their future global leaders and do not prepare proper succession planning, there is a good chance that expatriate employees will leave shortly after they return home or while still on their international assignment. This denies the organization of a much-valued resource.
  • 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 is not what it was; it will have changed significantly. This includes changes in the workplace, former co-workers, friends and family, and most importantly changes in the expat and their family members.
  • Unconscious bias can seriously 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 will cause them to select people more like themselves thus robbing the organization of the diverse talent needed in today’s global organizations. Ideally, those in the selection process have been overseas and have had training that allows them to select candidates based upon 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 that it might be included in future columns on best practices. Please send you comments or inquires to


© 2016 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

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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