Global Leaders: Set Up To Fail?

July 29, 2010 — 14 Comments

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


Posts Twitter Facebook

Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

14 responses to Global Leaders: Set Up To Fail?

  1. Very good written information. It will be helpful to anybody who employess it,
    as well as me. Keep doing what you are doing – i will definitely read more posts.

  2. It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people for this topic, but you
    seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  3. I?m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that?s both equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you,
    you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy I found this in my search for something regarding this.

  4. This is very interesting, You are an excessively professional blogger.
    I have joined your rss feed and stay up for in quest of more of your fantastic post.
    Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

  5. Nice respond in return of this matter with genuine arguments and explaining the whole thing on the topic of that.

  6. Woh I enjoy your blog posts, saved to my bookmarks!

  7. I’m very pleased to find this great site. I need to to thank you for
    your time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed
    every little bit of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new stuff
    in your blog.

  8. Admiring the dedication you put into your site
    and in depth information you offer. It’s good to come across a
    blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed material.
    Excellent read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  9. Thanks to my father who stated to me about this website, this web site is actually remarkable.

  10. This information is worth everyone’s attention. Where can I find
    out more?

  11. Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the
    challenges. It was definitely informative. Your site is very useful.
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. When someone writes an post he/she retains the plan of a user in his/her brain that how
    a user can understand it. So that’s why this article is great.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Are Global Leaders “Psyched” for Success? « Leadership Across Boundaries And Borders - August 5, 2010

    […] Across Boundaries And Borders Extreme Global Leadership « Are Global Leaders Set Up To Fail? Are Global Leaders “Psyched” for Success? August 5, […]

  2. Global Leader = Social Superhero? « Leadership Across Boundaries And Borders - August 13, 2010

    […] competence into everyday actions and behaviors. If we can partner with our leaders to develop intellectual, psychological, and social acumen, there is an immense opportunity to both positively impact […]

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>