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Global business leaders are not born to lead effectively. They must actively and consciously develop a global mindset and the ability to lead across cultures, geographies and functions. Unfortunately, all data indicates global corporations today have a short supply of experienced global leaders who are able to successfully work across boundaries and borders. How can we effectively contribute to minimizing global leadership failures and maximizing the likelihood of global leadership success?  As economic and business globalization continues to accelerate exponentially, those individuals who successfully acquire the knowledge and skill to lead organizations into a more complex and competitive marketplace will become more and more critical to organizational success – organizations must support these linchpin leaders in order to facilitate strong, sustainable results.

As a reminder, a recent conservative study on global leadership failure rates indicate that 63% of leaders filling global leadership roles fail, while other studies on global leadership failure rates range from 41 -55% . We MUST take action to facilitate global leadership success.  After 20+ years of working in global business, and several more coaching global executives,  I can only communicate what I know to be effective in facilitating leadership success in global environments. It is complex and it is difficult –  there is no simple answer. However, by following some general guidelines as to what to look for and what to focus on, it is possible to provide global leaders with the tools, skills, and knowledge to be successful across boundaries and borders.

Last week I posted commentary on what I consider the “Intellectual Acumen” necessary for global leadership.  This week we will look at the second component: Psychological Acumen and it’s corresponding subsets:

2.  Psychological Acumen: Openness to new ideas/experiences.

  • Self-confidence: Is the executive willing to take calculated risks in context? Does the executive encompass critical mental and emotional behaviors, including self-assurance and empathy across multicultural environments? Is there an ability to thrive in complex and unpredictable environments? Does s/he have the ability to be energized, rather than drained, by operating in foreign environments?
  • Principled Mindset: Despite new ideas and experiences, is there a guiding set of core values, and the ability to remain authentic regardless of the situational and environmental challenges? Can the executive effectively communicate the corporation’s shared values and strategy without isolating diverse cultures and geographies?
  • Passion for diversity: Is there a passion for exploring the world? An appreciation for other cultures and what can be learned from them? A desire to try new, unconventional, and innovative things? Is there a high tolerance for the unpredictable? Is there a commitment to continuous learning despite environmental change?

These qualities are rare in most circles.  Just as importantly, it is rarely a simple matter to assess the right competencies for a global leader, and in almost every case it  is very situational.  From my experience, psychological acumen are critical competencies for global executives that can’t simply be applied through “traditional training” methods. These, similar to intellectual acumen, are longer term, personal integration issues, which if not incorporated through sustained, continual, coaching and reinforcement, will also ensure the failure rate of global executives will continue to soar – a key contributor to global organizations inability to achieve their potential.

What are you doing to contribute to the success of global business?

Next week I will cover the third of the core components that I believe are essential to global leadership success, Social Acumen,  followed by a discussion specifically on those competencies that are critial to global leadership success, but are not necessarily taught in business school.

Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next installation of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders. FZP76BC9FG4Q