Global leadership

The internet is developing at an ever-increasing speed. Let your fantasy run free and imagine all the things it should be able to do, or everything you want to know – the majority of things that occur to you are certain to be possible in the near future. Technology is already so far advanced that you can find an answer to almost any question on the internet. Potentially, you can connect with everybody on the planet: via Linkedin, Twitter, Xing, or Facebook. Under the influence of social media, elections are won and regimes overthrown. Its power and force are becoming ever greater. What is stopping managers connecting with other people and countries – other than maybe thoughts of protecting their own market?

The rapid development of the Worldwide Web isn’t only a blessing – it presents new challenges. The internet is mainly used as a source of information and a means of communication. There is an abundance of information here, even secret state documents are made public via portals like Wikileaks. It’s becoming more and more difficult to judge the quality of information and to deal with the info overkill. Studies have shown that handling large amounts of information can have a negative effect – focus and work structure can suffer because of it. Social media is always available and is extremely easy to use. But few individuals or businesses have, as yet, looked into using it usefully and in a focused way. In my view, guidelines and regulations for all social networks are essential; statements on the networks don’t only have a positive effect as Barack Obama found to his benefit in his election success. The embarrassing example of Anthony Weiner, who spread lewd photos throughout the whole network, shows how quickly and irreversibly careers can be destroyed in social networks.

Man is a social animal who needs others to evolve. And social networks can be used to make and keep contact with the whole world. Our social instincts have contributed to the fact that social networks have been able to develop so dynamically in such a short time. But we don’t seem to have a natural ability to work and think globally (connective thinking) on a business level. Multinational companies, regardless of the advanced technical possibilities, regularly have to deal with inefficiently operating international teams. The opportunities that virtual teams offer are rarely effectively. Strategic communications being carried out as planned with locations in other countries is the exception. And the important transfer of knowledge is blocked.

Today’s “global generation” is technically at a global level. What about competence and the ability to move fluidly with and in other cultures? Unfortunately, international managers often lack the intercultural skills needed to create genuine connectivity, which is also useful to the company. So only a fraction of the opportunities and chances of possible internet communication are used.

Global thinking starts with intercultural thinking

For some, global thinking starts with inter-departmental thinking. If this kind of collaboration already results in difficulties, how then can we achieve an internationally focused mindset? The barrier is often an unconscious negative image of what one does not know. People are anxious about change. This means that everyone is also (unconsciously) anxious about other people.
By good education and training, one can become more aware of one’s own unconscious prejudices. Employees can learn to give the personal mindset a “reset”. This reset helps to see the world through different “spectacles” in order to find opportunities that one previously would never have come across.

1. Plan how you can integrate social networks and virtual communication into your daily work and how many hours per week you want to work out.

With integrating the new possibilities of social, virtual networks into our daily management, one must be aware of the two main barriers and, obviously, on how to overcome them.

Firstly, virtual social networks are a new tool to interact with others, creating, because it is new, automatically a natural resistance.

Secondly, if one communicates only virtually with another person, the grade of our distrust will increase significantly.

Concerning the first barrier, how to deal with change, many good books and articles have been written. Summarized, my advice is always: just make a time schedule and start. Another additional management advice is: Start the day with the matters that you do not like. You will discover what an intrinsic motivation you can develop for and in yourself.

The second barrier is, from the perspective of communication, very interesting.

Virtual teams cannot make an image from each other, like in a real (physical) meeting. This situation creates all sorts of negative side effects that must be compensated or even better managed proactively.

Research has shown that with virtual communication providing personal information, obviously tailored to the type of contact and the phase of cooperation, the result was very positively influenced. As an example, one can think of information about education, interests, work experience, other communication media, when easily reachable, etc.

Especially with a starting contact your ability, commitment and availability are of great importance to create a mutual trust relationship on which the virtual relation stretches to the quality of a personal relationship.

2. Accept people from other cultures as they are. Respect for other cultures and values is the basis of good teamwork.

It is by being on the “move” in other cultures vital to realize that our mindsets, and often our prejudices, conduct our behavior. Based on this perspective some concrete advices:

  • Respond to the content in a discussion, not to people.
  • Try to understand the “cultural” hierarchy.
  • Match your body language with other people in the room.
  • Do not utter the comparison with your own culture.
  • An open smile will be understood and valued in every culture on the entire

3. Make a plan on how you are going organize and structure your international communications and knowledge sharing.

To make a sound plan you must have good knowledge of the current situation.

Most important challenges related to globalization are:

  • Cumulative innovations: By sharing knowledge with other people from the whole world, we can realize innovations and inventions which rise beyond our national abilities.
  • Major uncertainties: Worldwide there are far more uncertainties than 20 years ago. The latest are e.g. the European financial crises and the transition in the Middle East.
  • Boundaries blurring: Not just the digital highway, also the “air highway”. Travelling by plane is easier, faster and cheaper than ever. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries are more than ready for participation and connectivity.
  • Dismantling of hierarchies: Today´s strong and irreversible trend. Especially the younger generations no longer accept that a small group of people control a country dictatorially. Digital communication was the crowbar to subvert regimes.

4. Always be aware that the best team players are ordinary people – even at an international level.

Undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects of the globalization challenge is leadership communication. We can learn a lot about the international mindset of someone on how this person communicates in his own team. Those people who communicate in their own national team frankly and openly do like to corporate with others. These people will function also internationally well; they do not think, as a first reaction to something one does not know, on how to
defend themselves. Those people are easily accessible and therefore master the right competences to build international (virtual) contacts.

5. Only people with ideals effortlessly accept the ideals and wishes of others.

Without ideals, no ideas, and certainly no new ideas. A manager without a vision is like a ship without a harbor.
Working international literally means working across own borders. To deal successfully with other cultures means to be open for other ideas. Some pragmatic guidelines to check oneself to discover personal openness changes and, in particular, changes related to a different culture:

  • What is a country you visit REGULARLY?
  • What are 5 typical habits of this country?
  • How many different “foreign” restaurants do you visit in your home country?

Conclusion and Inspiration

Who does not know the saying: “the world is getting smaller”.

Certainly true, if one considers the physical and digital accessibility. Probably, as a natural counterbalance, we perceive that countries raise the importance of their own culture. Leaders who increase reachability and respect for others as human beings are ready to go global.

Bekijk ook