Accelerating Global Leadership Development

Two critical contributions have recently augmented our understanding of leadership: (1) the primal nature of emotional and social intelligence as a critical underpinning of leadership effectiveness, and (2) the identification of the universal and culturally conditioned or “contingent” leadership characteristics. Together, they create a powerful concept of global leadership and its distinguishing attributes. This article outlines this conceptual synergy and illustrates how the Cultural Orientations Approach™ provides a practical basis of accelerating the development of global leadership capabilities.

As weak as the leadership pipeline is in many organizations, it is likely to be even weaker for global leadership talent. This renders the questions about the nature of global leadership and how it is identified and developed more than academic: global leadership is critical for the evolution, sustainability, and success of our globally interconnected value chains. Two interesting contributions point into a fruitful direction for understanding global leadership, the clarification of universal and culture dependent aspects of leadership. This differentiation is critical to sharpening our ability to identify and develop truly global leaders.
The works most critical in this regard are the GLOBE Study (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004) and the work on emotional and social intelligence (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2004). The former represents an ambitious macro-level study to illuminate leadership from a cross-cultural perspective. The latter represents the careful micro-level study of leadership interactions. Together, they create a practical framework for global leadership.
The GLOBE Study (House et al., 2004) uncovers (a) culturally determined clusters of leadership styles as well as (b) culturally universal and “contingent” leadership characteristics. The universal characteristics are equally important leadership attributes across cultures. However, the expression of these attributes will differ by cultural and social context. Culturally “contingent” attributes, according to the study, are valued differently in each cultural context. They may range from insignificant to critically important.
For global leaders, the GLOBE results imply that success requires a high degree of style versatility. Furthermore, the findings support the notion that such style versatility rests on:
A. a broad expressive repertoire that allows for the recognition of universal leadership characteristics across cultural contexts, and
B. the ability to modulate the display of specific attributes that may or may not be requisite leadership attributes (for culturally contingent attributes)