Developing global leaders: the 21st century corporate challenge

Professor Bill George

Harvard’s Bill George argues that too many multinationals are still ignoring the need to identify and develop global leaders equipped for the challenges of the 21st century

Tudor Rickards

Professor Bill George suggests that a new era for global leadership is developing which requires greater focus on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empowerment. We examine and test his ideas as published in Harvard Business Review and compare them with experiences from a major exercise developing such leaders within the Manchester Business School’s executive programme.

Synopsis of the article:

Too many multinational still concentrate vital decisions in the hands of a small group of trusted leaders from their home country. They rarely promote [local staff] Instead, they groom future global leaders from the headquarters. In order to adapt to local cultures and market needs, companies must shift to decentralized, collaborative decision-making. That requires developing many leaders capable of working anywhere. Rather than concentrating on the top 50 leaders, global companies need to develop hundreds, even thousands, of leaders comfortable operating in a variety of cultures. Developing such leaders with cultural sensitivities and collaborative skills requires greater focus on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empowerment than on traditional management skills.

Coke’s global leaders

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is one such pioneer in geographic diversity. Since the 1960s Coca-Cola has had South African, Cuban, Australian, Irish and its current Turkish-American CEO Muhtar Kent.

Nestle & Novartis

Over the past decade, Nestle and Novartis have made dramatic shifts from Swiss-dominated boards and executive leadership to a diverse set of nationalities.

IBM’s revival

Samuel Palmisano reorganized IBM into an “integrated global enterprise” based on leading by values and collaboration, using special bonuses to empower leaders. Its former chief learning officer recently estimated that the company will need 50,000 leaders in the future.

Unilever

Unilever has undertaken a major initiative to develop 500 global leaders in intensive leadership development programs to prepare them for expanded roles. According to CEO Paul Polman, “Unilever’s Leadership Development Programme prepares our future leaders for an increasingly volatile and uncertain world where the only true differentiation is the quality of leadership.”
Such global roles require experience working and living in multiple countries. German chemical maker Henkel insists its executives live in at least two different countries before being considered for promotion.

More than international experience

Developing global leaders necessitates a shift focusing on helping leaders increase their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. It’s not [even] enough just to work overseas. To process and learn from their experiences, individuals should utilize introspective practices like journaling, meditation or prayer, and develop support networks of peers. There they can consult confidentially with people they trust about important decisions and have honest conversations about their dilemmas, mistakes, and challenges. These methods are still in their nascent phase, but there is little doubt that they will have a profound impact on developing global leaders in the years ahead.

The Global Events and Leadership module

The Global Events and Leadership module (GEL) introduces the Manchester Business School’s executive MBA programmes around the world. Its basic messages chime with those suggested by Bill George, and his Harvard colleague Teresa Amabile, studied as part of GEL.

Ten thousand leaders and more

It is worth noting that the point about the need for ‘tens of thousands of leaders’. This implies a major rethink in many corporate boardrooms on the nature of leadership and the further split between traditional modes of top-down cultures and structures.

Dilemmas, mistakes, and challenges

GEL, like Bill George, emphasises the dilemmas of leadership through its course textbook, and its ‘learning through doing’ project-based workshops. global leadership is inherently a process
requiring what has been described as a Yes And approach to challenges. This involves an openness to change and a commitment to ‘authentic’ ethical values.

Acknowledgements

To an increasingly diverse and skilled group of associates dedicated to facilitating global leadership through exploration of its practices.

2 Responses to Developing global leaders: the 21st century corporate challenge

  1. Octavia says:

    i wont benefit much from this however my mother will,
    so thanks a lot
    Hahah never could have thought of that, brilliant!

    xxx

  2. Thanks Octavia. Take her a grenade for Mother’s Day. Grapes are so passé…

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