Blog Post

The Global Leadership Conundrum

Published: Monday, June 24, 2019
Updated: Monday, June 24, 2019

Picture this: You have been leading a technology team for several years. It is now time for you to take the "next step" and the role available to you is a that of leading a team across 3 countries. You think to yourself:

    • Does this role demand the same skills as that of a Sr leader in the organization?
    • How will you engage your team if you're not physically present?
    • Will you need to make some changes to your schedule based on your new role's demands? 

There are several leaders who are dealing with this challenge every day and with globalization becoming the order of the day, there is no escaping the fact that after a point, a career growth will mean finding an answer to all these questions and more. To make things simpler and more systematic, there is a 3-step process which can come handy to new global leaders:

  1. Know your team and "how they roll"

Start with a point of empathy. Being led by someone who is from a different culture, background and possibly a different "wiring" is not easy for the team. To make matters worse, the geographical proximity and absence of  connection poses the first challenge that the global leader must overcome.  The first task a global leader must place in their radar is a thorough "meet & greet". There is no replacment of a see-hear-feel interaction, no matter how comfortable we are with virtual associations with our co-workers. Getting  a sense of what drives people,  the local office culture, their families and the vibe of the place they live in helps the leader "soak in" and empathise with them in future interactions.
2. Over-communicate to start with

Leaders are perceived in different ways in different culures. For instance, in a low power distance culture, leaders are perceived as partners/ someone who guides and helps remove obstacles. Whereas in high power distance cultures, they are perceived as superior and someone who knows more/gives directions. These cultural nuances could lead in a difference in how you see things and how your DRs do. Once, in a interview, a leader told me how they do not want their teams to be order-takers..."I want them to challenge me and not say yes to everything!" 


In such a situation, it is best to be explicit about what you need and what your intent is. Setting some expectations on how you don't expect them to respond to your emails as soon as they see them or how you expect them to ideate with you during strategy meetings helps even at the risk of over-communication.

3. "Glocalize" when you can

Leaders are naturally expected to be influencers, coaches and mentors. Global leaders might not find it easy to be there during every coaching moment for their DRs or every opportunity to influence their peers/partners/clients in favor of their teams. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of localization - having a trusted partner or a circle of influence helps. Someone who can be there for your teams when they need a leader to help them steer through challenges unique to their area/country - local laws, compliance, market challenges, talent landscape issues.  Building a circle of influence will help you be there even if you're not there! This could even help you navigate through talent problems - acquiring new talent or advancing existing talent and build good team health overall. These could even be people who manage your team's projects locally - they could help share feedback about work or just how things are going.

About the Author

Designer | Consultant | Tech Enthusiast

...with close to 14 years in Learning and Development. I specialize in creating meaningful learning experiences for employees. I have a passion for research and innovation and get great energy from making learning a fun, enriching experience.

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