Video: Five Barriers to Global Leadership

Video by Kevan Hall, CEO of Global Integration, a consulting and training company that specialises in people management in complex, matrixed, virtual and global organizations.

Abridged video transcript for anyone unable to access YouTube or reading on a mobile browser unable to play:

Global leaders need to manage people across barriers of distance, cultural differences, working through technology, across time zones and in highly complex matrix and global organization structures. When leading global teams and organizations, there are additional challenges to overcome.

In our training around global leadership, we help people overcome five major barriers.

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1. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP: DISTANCE

The first barrier which presents itself in a global leadership context is distance: we are no longer face-to-face with colleagues we work with.

This is probably the most intractable barrier. Human beings have evolved to operate face-to-face and lack of that ‘bandwidth’ of communication, the ability to monitor non-verbal messages and have substantial face to face time together – has big implications for trust, collaboration and communication.

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We have to develop the skills to stay in touch through technology and to create new forms of collaboration that will work without the same depth of relationships we were used within the past.

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2. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP: CULTURE

The second barrier to global leadership is culture. When people begin to work internationally, this is usually the first barrier they notice.

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If you are new to them, cultural differences can cause frustration and misunderstandings. An ability to work across cultures is essential for the true global leader: not just the ability to deal with other cultures, but to understand the impact of their own culture on the way they work and communicate.

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However, culture should not be seen as a separate topic (attend a two-day cross-cultural training course and the job is done). Instead,  an understanding of culture should infuse everything else.

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If you lead a global team you need to be able to present to an international audience, negotiate with people who have a different negotiating style, communicate with people who get their point across in different ways.

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A true global leader is able to be flexible to lead people from other cultures but also has a core of authenticity that enables them to be credible around the world.

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Because culture is so explicit, global leaders often develop the capability for dealing with the most obvious differences quite quickly. In many organizations, working across cultures has been normal for decades now, and they have developed the skills to overcome this barrier.

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You can find out more about our approach to this in the three Tools for cross-cultural success videos:

The Five Choices Tool

The Onion

The Culture Abacus

 

3. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP: TECHNOLOGY

It may seem strange to consider technology as a barrier: technologies also a critical enabler of global working. It would be hard to imagine leading a global team without the use of communication technology for example.

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However, communicating through technology can cause misunderstandings and, though the technology does not force us to communicate ineffectively, it can make it easy for us to miss-communicate. An obvious example would be the mass of poor quality emails that people routinely receive.

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A focus on the technology can also leaders to underestimate the need for participation and involvement. If we run a boring webinar we may not be able to see that most participants are not engaged or doing something else.

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With the mass of messages arriving daily through email, instant messenger and other tools, the global leader needs to learn to drive the technology – otherwise it will start to drive them.

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4. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP: COMPLEXITY

Large organizations are very complex places and decisions have implications beyond the immediately obvious. In particular, complex organization structures such as a matrix, or where the need to engage virtual networks is required to get things done, demand that a global leader to develop whole new skills of influence without authority, managing competing priorities and creating diverse networks and alliances.

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This can be frustrating to leaders who have been used to getting things done through position or hierarchical power.

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5. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP: TIME ZONES

Time zones are a permanent feature of global working, they are not going to go away. We need to organize our work to reflect them.

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Failure to master working across time zones can lead to delay and frustration. By building the necessary skills,  global leaders can overcome these barriers and turn them into advantages.

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Global teams bring a wealth of diverse perspectives, and enable leaders to take advantage of global scale and local skills around the World. For example, we can use time zones to generate 24-hour working on critical issues and problems and learning from around the World to improve our products and processes.

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For many organizations global leadership is fast becoming ‘business as usual’: we just need to ensure our people have the skills to manage this reality. If you want to find out more about Gloval Integration’s Global Leadership Training, please visit us at www.global-integration.com

Video: Five Barriers to Global Leadership

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