Archives For Social Superhero?

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The cry for effective leadership in global organizations is both urgent and widespread. Organizations are challenged to identify and leverage global leadership competence in order to succeed across boundaries and borders, while technical competence and organizational experience are no longer adequate selection criteria for key global positions.

Increasingly the most crucial leadership characteristics identified are relationship competence and openness to new perspectives. These are challenging to develop in leaders because they derive from interpersonal characteristics and require sustained behavioral change. Typically, organizations have selected or promoted leaders for global roles based on technical expertise and organizational commitment, which has, historically, resulted in unsatisfying results. The unintended negative consequences have often been well-publicized and costly – premature terminations, disappointing global performance, as well as reduced organizational morale, cohesion and performance.

Leading across boundaries and borders requires specific interpersonal attitudes and skills, in addition to technical expertise and organizational knowledge. It is absolutely critical that we provide leaders with the right tools and skillsets to succeed in an ever-changing, complex global environment. One key element of this preparation is making sure leaders understand and have the ability to create relationships of trust by developing keen insight and respect for differences, while also connecting across cultures in a meaningful way.

Last week I posted commentary on what I consider the “Psychological Acumen” necessary for global leadership.  This week we will look at the third component: Social Acumen and its corresponding subsets:

Social Acumen: Intercultural communication skills; the ability to align, motivate and inspire people;  networking and building trust relationships globally; the desire for continuous interpersonal growth.

  • Team Building: Can the executive build alignment despite differences in function, geography and culture? Is there the ability to communicate a consistent vision and inspire team coordinated action across diverse environments? Can s/he keep the teams focused and motivated?
  • Intercultural Orientation: Is there an ability to engage and connect with people from different backgrounds, functions, and cultures?
  • Personal Impact: Is there the ability to build alliances and business partnerships? Can the executive bring together diverse viewpoints, drive consensus, and maintain credibility across cultures? Is there the capability to successfully infuse the local management team with the corporate (global) vision and culture to effectively institutionalize the local market?
  • Diplomacy: Can the executive hear both what is said and what is not said?  Can s/he ease into conversations with diverse participants? Is there a propensity to ask rather than answer? Is there skill in building networks with diverse cultural connection points?

Global companies today may deploy international processes and operations, yet they must understand that above all people drive those processes and operations. If people across boundaries and borders are not bought into the global leader on an interpersonal level, critical goals are not likely to be achieved  – at least not with any level of effectiveness or efficiency. Companies must find innovative ways to generate competitive advantage, and again, this can only be achieved through people – thus the criticality of social acumen.

The continued expansion of the global enterprise across diverse cultures and geographies, as well as the necessary integration of diverse, and often geographically separated, teams into the perspectives, strengths and results of the global operation requires that leaders acquire the social acumen that is critical to global success. The competitive context in which we all live does not permit us to leave any talent underutilized – all global leaders must acquire and embed global leadership 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 peoples lives and drive strong, consistent global results!

What are you doing to develop social acumen as a critical business skill in your global organization?

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.