I recently listened to a powerful presentation on global leadership where Sheena Iyengar from the Columbia Business School was interviewed about her vision on the characteristics of a global leader. She stressed the need for an increase in cultivating a new type of leader who can transcend many different backgrounds. She specifically focused on creating a shared narrative that integrates all of our different stories. If organizations would spend the time learning about our different cultures, customs and work experiences, we might be able to develop highly functional global teams. How can leaders become stronger on an international playing field? How can they successfully connect all of their teams’ stories and talents?
- Celebrate different cultures: A great way is to begin collecting anecdotes from all your team members. Informally have each person share how they arrived at this point in their careers. How did their backgrounds, experiences and values bring them to where they are today? This is a great way to learn about each other in an open-minded forum. Look for both the differences and similarities in all of the stories, both are important in creating a shared narrative. Additionally, this process of opening up about our professional and possibly personal lives, is a step towards building trust.
- Encourage collaboration: Collaboration is the cornerstone of global leadership. A great way to begin developing a culture of collaboration is to pair international team members and give them joint projects. Explain what unique backgrounds and strengths each brings, encouraging them to leverage their different talents and abilities. When the venture is complete, ask for feedback on both the challenges and successes they encountered. Empower them to come up with new ways they could collaborate with each other and other team members. Ask them: “Did collaboration enhance the final outcome of the assignment?”
- Locate the bottlenecks of communication: If communication is the oil that keeps an organization moving, it only makes sense to diagnose where the flow is impeded. Leaders need to ask: “Who is talking to who and who is not talking to who?” Is there an individual who is keeping information from other team members? Investigate how people communicate internally as well as globally. Once leaders discover where the communication is being blocked and why, it is critical to mentor the individual or groups on how to become effective communicators.
- Cultivate an innovative mindset: Give individuals the opportunity to explore new ideas and inventions. It is not important if they succeed or fail, but whether they try. Global leadership means delving into creative projects and thinking outside of a person’s comfort zone. By helping our teams stretch their thinking power, we will develop a culture of agility and ingenuity. We all fail at one point or another; it’s what we learn from the failures that are important. Become a lifelong learner and model that with your global team.
Are you evolving into a global leader? What have you done to cultivate your global leadership?