You may recognize great leaders when you see them, but can you pinpoint the behaviors that make them great? If you don’t have a firm understanding of why people are successful, it’s impossible to learn from them and emulate their success.
Through tireless research, we learned which qualities set great global leaders apart from the crowd. We fleshed out significant elements of a global leader, surveyed top leaders from Fortune 200 companies, compared them to a database of leaders who drive high-performance cultures and sustainable organizations, and finally found the “secret sauce” they all have in common.
1. Team Connectivity
The ability to connect talent around innovative ideas goes a long way. This means getting people excited about and engaged in the meaningful purpose of an organization, not just a number. It means communicating the message to everyone, no matter who or where they are, so they fully understand the direction of the company. It also includes providing opportunities for improvement through creative means.
Leaders who behave in this way are not constrained by hierarchy or traditional organizational structures. Rather, they create teams based on need, unleash them, and give them “air cover” so they can succeed.
2. Pragmatic Flexibility
Leaders who demonstrate this trait are clear and comfortable with their own values, while also respecting other ways of doing things. They are not shocked when people do things differently, and they do not insist that others do things “their way.” They understand the difference between standing firm with integrity and imposing their own biases on others.
A simple example would be when a leader is visiting a part of the world where they value building a relationship before talking business matters. A good “transglobal” leader would be flexible in her interactions, understand the importance of this, and respect the other party’s preference. She wouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to working with other people. Instead, she has a strong moral compass and accepts and appreciates others’ values and ways of doing things.
3. Perceptive Responsiveness
Leaders with this ability are excellent at reading people, and they understand that not everyone will recognize the possibilities or even comprehend an idea immediately. They take the time to work with people until they are certain the group or individuals understand what is required of them. Rather than put someone on the spot in a negative way, they will make everyone feel comfortable as they sort through the issue. They understand that just because they had a meeting with others and explained a project or direction, there’s no guarantee that everyone is on the same page. They are alert to behavioral cues and body language and don’t assume that “everyone gets it.”
4. Talent Orientation
This refers to leaders who pay considerable personal attention to the talent in their organizations. Instead of delegating talent development to human resources, they take personal responsibility for this task and are deeply involved in career advancement, succession planning, and ensuring that people have the necessary support to do their jobs well. Transglobal leaders view developing local talent as part of their mission. They want successful and capable individuals to take over their roles when they leave. Transglobal leaders are “talent magnets” and seek out talent wherever they are.
5. Uncertainty Resilience
Being resilient means a leader has the ability to make sense out of chaos. Today’s world is fast, complex, and ambiguous. Leaders can no longer take the time to sort through all the details. They have to have the confidence to assess situations and adapt. They have to be able to make sense out of seeming chaos, create a coherent vision, and bring others along with that vision.
Leaders with resilience see the forest through the trees and help others see the way forward when things are unclear. They are not troubled by uncertainty, and they have an uncanny ability to sort through the details, shape a direction, and get the organization mobilized for action.
Do You Have What It Takes?
Even if you can’t spend large amounts of time abroad, you can still become a transglobal leader by learning about and embodying the qualities captured in the five dimensions above. Take risky assignments that cause you to think differently about how you approach the world. Put yourself in situations where you are not like everyone else in the room. Practice your abilities to adapt and understand the unique attributes of different types of people and cultures.
Learn about yourself: your weaknesses, strengths, biases, and unfounded opinions. Be curious, and embrace differences. Practice inclusion, not exclusion. Use the Transglobal Leadership 360 Assessment to test how you stack up in each dimension. Learn from the results and develop a personal action plan to develop these attributes. Get some coaching around your plan, attend the Transglobal Leadership Workshop and Retreat, and experience what it takes to lead globally firsthand.
Being a global leader is more than managing a company with offices or partnerships in a different company. It’s a mindset that results from building an action plan. Embody the behavioral traits of a transglobal leader — your new global consciousness and perspective will take your business to new borders.
Dr. Linda D. Sharkey is Global Managing Director and Partner at Achieveblue, a boutique consultancy that specializes in leadership development, cultural transformation, and talent and organization development. Prior to joining Achieveblue, Linda was the Chief Talent Officer for HP and also held numerous Executive Human Resources roles at GE. Linda is co-author of Winning with Transglobal Leadership, which has been recognized as one of the Top 30 Best Business Books for 2012 by Executive Summaries. She has also co-authored a groundbreaking book on talent management, entitled Optimizing Talent. Linda is a widely sought-after executive coach and is a Founding Member of the Marshall Goldsmith Group. She can be reached at LSharkey@Achieveblue.com.
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