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Success_KeyBecoming a great leader is more than just a title – it is hard work.  It requires unprecedented levels of innovation and a commitment to the organization and its constituents, as well as the ability to continually inspire and motivate others to succeed. One key way to achieve ongoing innovation and sustainable results is through the creation of an execution culture.

You, as a leader, have an opportunity to accelerate progress in your organization through the deployment of Rapid Result Initiatives (RRI’s), which can be used to:

  • Increase current performance
  • Strengthen collaboration
  • Facilitate innovation
  • Demonstrate success in the process of executing your long term vision and mission

RRI’s are small, high-leverage, short-term projects that generate immediate impact and measurable results, while tapping into hidden capacity and building momentum to drive large-scale change – usually in 100 days or less.

Exceptional leaders understand they must calculate their steps and fully understand what they have and how to use it most effectively to continually move forward. One very beneficial way to do this is to structure your organization as a portfolio of RRI’s leading to the achievement of ultimate vision. This approach creates the opportunity to pursue strategically critical goals that deliver real impact, while  linking directly to the long term plans and objectives of the organization. Each RRI becomes a vehicle for achievement, learning, and the advancement of long term goals.

The core of Rapid Results Initiatives involves working with your teams to set and achieve small, but aggressive, goals in one or more key areas of performance. From this perspective, they are compelled to tap into hidden reserves of capacity and energy to get the job done, taking action and testing assumptions to determine how to best achieve the desired objective on a compressed timeline. Through a succession of fast-paced, results focused initiatives, you can make remarkable gains toward major goals and objectives.

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In an ever-changing global marketplace, those who lead across boundaries and borders are increasingly required to become Extreme Team Captains – guiding the organization through unfamiliar and turbulent environments, while maximizing the functional, geographical, and cultural diversity of their teams.  In today’s multicultural, dynamic world, ensuring the continuous learning and growth of global leaders is critical to achieving high performance and sustainable growth in every organization.

With markets, suppliers, competitors, technology, and customers around the world constantly changing the rules of the game, traditional leadership models no longer work. Companies need leaders of exceptionally high caliber and quality, as they are a key component of the only true source of competitive advantage – people. But how do we create this Extreme Global LeaderTM? Is there the possibility of exceptional leadership that transcends accepted leadership characteristics to create a global leader that is emotionally, politically, and culturally intelligent?  How do these high-potential leaders evolve and become extreme? What is the most effective method of creating a transformational leader?

Last week we pondered potential and its source. If we look at the critical components of what we perceive to be potential (performance, emotional intelligence, motivation, and agility), is it possible to leverage potential through traditional training and/or coaching? Both are valuable tools for learning, but have entirely different purposes and outcomes.

The purpose of training is to teach:

  • skills
  • methods
  • theories
  • tactics
  • strategies

It is the process of disseminating information from the trainer to the leader. Training provides a pre-set curriculum and the trainer imparts what is important for the student to know. Trainers have subject matter expertise and an understanding of teaching methods that work well with adult learners. Training offers economies of scale so, even when customized, it is often less expensive than coaching for a comparable number of students. Because training is typically a one-time event with little to no reinforcement, the benefits may have a very short shelf life.

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We go to business school to learn all the right skills, but what are the right skills? Of course we all need to know the fundamentals of basic business management, but what about  those critical, but less obvious, competencies that global executives must know in order to succeed? What are those essential skills not taught in business school that often cause high potential leaders to derail and never achieve their potential? Here are a few important aspects of global leadership that are not taught in business school:

1) How To Create A Global Vision:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizon are limited by obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were.”   ~ John F. Kennedy

The problem with this statement is that many global leaders do not know how to create a vision, do not realize how very vital it is to the success of their organization, nor what to do with the vision once they have finally figured it out. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Work backward from your imagination, rather than forward from your past –  the old adage, “What got you here, will not get you there” is an absolute truth.
  • Remember that whatever you can imagine, you can accomplish
  • Ask yourself some revealing questions as you develop your vision:
    • What is an enormous strategic opportunity within your domain/organization/industry?
    • What would change your business and your clients business forever?
    • What is missing that would truly revolutionize the products/services/processes/etc.? (Think Apple, Netflix, Facebook…)
    • What will take your company/domain from status quo to breakthrough?
    • What are you so passionate about that you would be willing to transform not only your company, but yourself?
  • Think through and understand what it is going to require of you and the organization to realize the vision: Realistically ensure the benefits outweigh the costs
  • Document and Publish an explicit, living, breathing, step by step plan that senior leaders, peers and staff can buy into and share ownership.

2) How to Execute With A Results Orientation

They don’t teach the dogged determination that creates the ability to execute in business school, but this quality is more important in making people successful and in executing in global business than any other. However, if that is all it takes to execute, why do so many executives lack this ability? Because there is no system, formula, strategy, or tactical plan behind the vision – there is a weak results orientation and a lack of process knowledge to support forward movement (aside from a few additional factors we will cover next week). Naturally, it is important to begin with the end in mind, but many executives are so focused on the end, they end up chasing their tails and accomplishing little. Here are some straight forward ways for executives to facilitate their ability to execute:

  • Focus on the process, not the prize – concentrate on what will produce the results, rather than the results themselves.
  • Get and stay connected – identify key strategic partners that can help you get where you want to go and consistently engage.
  • Have both a tactical and a strategic plan.
  • Execute one step at a time – By the inch it’s a cinch, by the yard it will be hard.
  • Consistently engage ALL key players across boundaries & borders – without the buy-in and commitment of critical resources you will never succeed.
  • Listen, don’t just hear – listen to what your subject matter experts are telling you and remain flexible in your gameplan.
  • Incorporate strict accountability measures – if no one is openly accountable, little will get done.

3) How To Network For Success

There is great power in knowing you can reach out to your network whenever you have a problem to solve, to be able to reach key influencers at conferences and meetings, to make an impression on audiences, to project confidence and trustworthiness, and to make friends with other successful people. The ability to connect on many levels is essential to success in global business – in fact many top executives say networking is one of the top reasons for their success. Surrounding yourself with successful and intelligent people will  allow you to consistently think smarter, as well as having access to brilliant people that will support your objectives and provide valuable insights. Networking presents opportunities to interact on a personal level and to develop profitable relationships. Most people have a reluctance to connect with strangers, however in business talking to strangers is essential and the only effective way to generate interest and support for what you do. It is so easy to stay within your controlled environment, however if you only talk to people you already know, you will miss significant opportunities to make new connections, establish valuable connections, and position yourself for success.

The greatest people in business have certain attributes in common. Some are natural gifts, others are learned attributes.  Beyond personal qualities –

Can we prevent the derailment of high potential global leaders through the acquisition of critical skills not taught in business school?

Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for Part 2 of “Business School or School of Hard Knocks?”

DDI’s Global 2009 Leadership Study  indicated that 37 percent of leaders filling global leadership roles fail.  These leaders failed to achieve their global objectives and, most commonly, left the company – unsuccessful. “Clearly, something is wrong worldwide with leadership development…”, reports DDI in its 2009 Global Leadership Forecast. But what is being done about this epidemic problem?  I repeatedly hear people willing to state the problem, but very few who actually propose and facilitate solutions.

After 20+ years of working in global business, and several more coaching global executives, I am repeatedly asked what is needed to facilitate success in global environments. I can tell you that it is not fancy terms or academic theories that move executives forward – but it is the ability to take reality-based theories, put them into layman’s terms, and apply them into real-world scenarios – while simultaneously  incorporating some less obvious skills that are not necessarily taught in business school.

I can provide you with the basic components I use to evaluate the likelihood of leadership success in the global marketplace, as well as the competencies I seek to further develop/position executives for global success. It is by no means a formal, definitive “global leadership” list of competencies, as the challenges are always very complex and involve a mix of both hard and soft skill development, but it is a methodology to leverage when evaluating global executives or  partnering with them to further individual or group development. The reality is that I am a practitioner, not a scientist – and I promote and teach what I know through real-world experience.

For each of the next three weeks, I will cover one of the three core components that I know from experience are essential to global leadership success (Intellectual, Psychological, and Social)  – followed by a discussion specifically on those more covert competencies that are critial to global leadership success.

This week we will look at the first component: Intellectual Acumen and it’s corresponding subsets:

  1. Intellectual Acumen: Understanding how the business works on a global scale / having the functional and market competencies to succeed.
  • Business management capability: Is there a capacity for strategic decision-making, functional expertise, efficient resource allocation, effective time management, problem-solving ability, ease in managing complexities, and ability to stay flexible? Can the executive adapt his/her leadership style to a variety of situations?
  • Global business knowledge: does the executive know how the business/industry works worldwide? How global customers behave across various geographies? How competition targets global clients? How strategic risk varies by geography? Is the executive mindful of diverse business protocols and legalities across areas of responsibility on a global basis / how it effects the overall business?
  • Cognitive complexity: does the executive have the ability to relate diverse scenarios with many moving parts without becoming overwhelmed? Is s/he aware of corporate/proprietary competencies that include navigation of internal culture, institutional business protocols, and proprietary skills that affect the global business?

It is rarely a simple matter to assess the right competencies for a global leader, and is very situational.  From my experience, intellectual acumen is the basic starting point for global leadership success. Although a significant portion of intellectual acumen is gained through education and organizational experience, if the basic competencies are not present, and incredibly strong, the leader has failed before s/he ever begins. If these elements are present, but need development or refinement, more than “traditional training” methods are required. These are longer term, organizational integration issues, which if not incorporated through sustained, continual, coaching and reinforcement, will ensure that the failure rate of global executives will continue to soar – a key contributor to global organizations inability to achieve their potential. I have seen it time and again…

How would you rate your global intellectual acumen? If it is not where you need it to be, what are you going to do about it?

You can contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next installation  of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders. 59DCENEFB9N7

The hallowed halls of The University of Cambridge, one of my Alma Maters and one of the oldest universities in the world, is believed to have been formed in 1209 by scholars who had left Oxford after a dispute with local townspeople, developed into one of the most respected universities in the world. Through the decades it has produced more than 80 Nobel prize winners and nurtured some of history’s greatest thinkers:  John Milton, Isaac Newton, Hans Blix, Ludvig Wittgenstein, CS Lewis, Francis Crick and James Watson (the structure of DNA), Sylvia Plath, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking – to mention just a few. As I attended Cambridge’s 800th anniversary last year, I was again honored by the intellect that surrounds me.  But, at the same time, I recognize very clearly that there is a remarkable gap between what we learn in business school and what we need to be successful in the ever-evolving world of global business. I am the beneficiary of some of the finest Professsors in the world, yet there are topics not necessarily taught in business school, that are indeed critical to survival in global business – some of my favorite challenges to discuss.

The Unspoken subject-matter emerges as you dive headlong into the unpredictable environment of global business and suddenly realize that there are challenges and roadblocks that you were not advised of and that you had not previously contemplated.  Topics such as politics, networking, challenging the status quo, the importance of rapid results, mentoring/coaching, execution, big picture/small picture balance , etc… These challenges and roadblocks often derail careers and cause people to question their commitment to global business. If we are to successfully evolve leadership on a global basis, it is vitally important that we understand these challenges and ensure they are addressed.

Because these topics are so deeply rooted in the day to day operations of global business, they are not well suited, in most instances, to academic institutions. In addition, we know that corporate training is often ineffective and retention rates are low. If we are to tool our executives with the skills to accelerate their organizations, we will need to better leverage non-traditional learning. We will need to look to effective, ongoing methods, often based in experience rather than theory, in order to facilitate organizational success on every level.

Gary Hamel‘s commentary on Leadership and how it has not fundamentally changed in over 100 years is accurate. We may move things around, make them look a little different, or phrase them in a different way – but there has been little actual innovation in leadership theory and practice in a very long time. It occurs to me how absolutely critical it is for academia and business to come together for the greater good – the future of global business and interculturism depend on it. If we are to evolve, we will need to look to Translational Science – essentially taking what is developed in the “lab” and deploying it effectively in real-world scenarios, and vice versa – taking what we know and understand to be real in global business and partnering with academia to make it more effective.

Please join me next week for a continuation of this discussion, detailing some potential ways to effectively deploy translational science into  both academic and business environments. You can contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next Thursday for the next installation  of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.