Global Leader Fellows’ Leadership Action Plan

Abstract

The paper presents the leadership action plan oriented to achieving the goal regarding the development of leadership skills with the focus on working in ambiguous and diverse cultural contexts. The action plan is based on the detailed discussion of the modern vision of the global leadership and cross-cultural communication concepts with references to the comparison of Global Leader Fellows’ ideas presented in 2009 and the researchers’ views on the global leadership issue. The paper provides the analysis of Global Leader Fellows’ comments with the focus on discussing similarities and differences in the researchers and practitioners’ visions of such concepts as intercultural communication, cultural intelligence, the idea of leadership competencies, and the issue of the leader’s capabilities.

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The concept of the global leadership is closely connected with the concept of the cross-cultural communication because leaders working in different regions of the world and interacting with representatives of various cultures need to communicate effectively in order to achieve the high results. Each leader can be discussed as having his own vision of the global leadership idea. However, several worldwide known persons selected as Global Leadership Fellows emphasized similar ideas in different words, and their visions of the future leader were represented in the World Economic Forum video (World Economic Forum, 2009). The opinions of these leaders are important to be taken into account while designing a personal leadership action plan in order to develop the qualities and competencies of the global leader.

In addition, these opinions need to be compared to the traditional theories in the field in order to provide an effective background for the plan, select the most appropriate goals, and choose the efficient actions to take. This paper aims to present the leadership action plan proposed to develop the global leader’s skills and provide the analysis of the Global Leadership Fellows’ visions in the context of the traditional theories and typically identified leader’s competencies. The action plan is based on the assessment of strengths and weaknesses, and it is developed according to the formulated goal. Therefore, the paper includes the assessment of the personal strengths and weaknesses, the discussion of challenges for modern global leaders, the goal formulated for the action plan, the list of actions to take, the detailed analysis of Global Leadership Fellows’ words, and the discussion of the role of culture in global leadership.

Assessment of the Leader’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Before starting the development of the action plan to improve the personal skills and qualities related to the area of global leadership, it is necessary to conduct the assessment of the personal strengths and weaknesses. The reason is in the necessity to determine the individual features and behaviors that need to be improved in order to address the expectations regarding global leaders. According to Global Leader Fellows, future leaders need to demonstrate such strengths as the ability to make the masses follow them, address the variety of cultures, formulate the clear goals and visions to follow, inspire, demonstrate the developed communication skills, and understand their social responsibility (World Economic Forum, 2009).

These visions are in line with the ideas proposed by Wibbeke (2013) that are formulated as seven competencies or principles: care, communication, consciousness, contrasts, context, change, and capability. In this context, it is possible to identify such personal strengths as attention to details, openness, the absence of prejudice, and the ability to listen to other people’s opinions. A weakness that needs to be addressed with the help of the completed leadership action plan includes the lack of experience in terms of working in extremely contrasting contexts or with extremely different cultures. This weakness can be discussed as the lack of skills in applying the principle of Contrasts while referring to the terminology by Wibbeke (2013). It is possible to note that Global Leader Fellows speak about Contrasts when they mention the role of cultural intelligence and the leaders’ skills in leveraging multiple talents (World Economic Forum, 2009). Therefore, this area needs to be developed to become a global leader.

Challenges for Global Leaders

Global Leader Fellows also focus on the challenges for future global leaders while discussing the qualities that they need to obtain. One of the main challenges is the necessity to refer to the idea of interconnectedness and interdependence in all contexts, when the solution to one problem needs to include the aspects addressing the variety of contexts, making the good for the whole world. The leaders also point to the necessity of using the holistic approach to addressing a lot of challenges faced by leaders globally. One more mentioned challenge is the necessity to formulate goals while addressing the wide picture and responding to the needs of many people, creating value for them. The other challenge is the necessity of developing cultural intelligence and the associated principles of effective intercultural communication through the interest in the aspects of other cultures or the exposure to other cultures (World Economic Forum, 2009).

In his discussion of the leadership challenges, Wibbeke (2013) reflects the ideas mentioned by Global Leader Fellows when he discusses the problem of global interdependence and the importance of focusing on the culture. Global Leader Fellows also mention the necessity of the knowledge regarding the cultures, but they stated that its importance is lower than the importance of developed intercultural and communication skills (World Economic Forum, 2009). More importantly, Wibbeke (2013) states that the main challenge is “how to manage multiple, simultaneous cultural identities” (p. 2). From this point, it is possible to state that Global Leader Fellows and theorists are inclined to identify the same challenges for future leaders but in different words. The discussed challenges are also important to be assessed in the context of the identified weaknesses to formulate an effective leadership goal for the action plan.

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Global Leadership Goal

The personal leadership goal appropriate for the development of global leadership mindset is to enhance skills in terms of effective work and productive, positive communication in ambiguous and rather contrasting contexts. Having focused on the challenges for future leaders, it is possible to state that the concept of interdependence is associated with the ideas of tolerance and understanding of diverse people’s needs. The other challenge is the necessity to address the needs of people with different values and visions. As a result, the formulated goal is correlated with the principle of Contrasts proposed by Wibbeke (2013).

Therefore, the objectives to support the main leadership goal need to include the development of tolerance, patience, understanding of contrasting values and perspectives. The goal needs to be completed in six months, and the expected outcome is the developed ability to perceive people’s differences, various visions and values, and multiple perspectives with patience, tolerance, and understanding, as well as address them effectively. In order to achieve this goal and shift to the next step of leveraging the multiple talents and implementing the change, it is necessary to propose adequate actions to take.

Actions to Take to Achieve the Goal and Overcome Challenges

The first step that needs to be taken is the development of cultural intelligence. In their speeches, Global Leader Fellows mention that leaders need to respond to many cultures observed and studied in various places. In addition, it is important to study the cultures across the world in order to learn how to work in their contexts (World Economic Forum, 2009). These ideas are consistent with the contextualist perspective, the ideas of the intercultural competency and cultural intelligence, and with Wibbeke’s discussion of the principle of Context (Elenkov & Manev, 2009; Tuleja, 2014; Wibbeke, 2013).

Thus, a global leader needs to understand differences in low-context and high-context cultures to work with explicit and hierarchal Western cultures and more implicit and spiritually oriented Eastern cultures, for instance (Wibbeke, 2013, p. 40). It is important to remember that “each culture views the world differently” (Wibbeke, 2013, p. 30). This knowledge develops with the focus on gathering and examining the material regarding diverse cultures. In spite of the fact that Global Leader Fellows state that skills are developed with the focus on the experience and the actual exposure to cultures, it is impossible to ignore the role of the cognitive development and knowledge in this process (World Economic Forum, 2009). Thus, the process of understanding the cultural context is multi-dimensional and includes different steps.

Moreover, while studying the context, a leader also needs to develop cultural intelligence with the focus on improving the knowledge regarding the appropriate body language, intonation, and speech style. Additionally, the development of cultural intelligence includes the development of the motivational sphere to ensure that a leader is ready to accept the differences in other cultures (Caligiuri & Tarique, 2012, p. 612; Li, Mobley, & Kelly, 2013). According to Global Leader Fellows, people choose to follow a leader when they feel the confidence in this person (World Economic Forum, 2009).

The examination of materials on the specifics of different cultures allows the leader to feel more confident while starting the work in different contexts (Ng, Van Dyne, & Ang, 2009). The contextualist perspective as one of the theories supporting the intercultural communication is also important to demonstrate how different contexts can influence the cultures in such ways that are not predicted by the representatives of other cultures (Wibbeke, 2013). From this point, the following step is essential to be the first one on the path to completing the main leadership goal:

To improve the cultural intelligence and knowledge regarding different cultures with the focus on the contextual perspective and with the help of reading the literature on the topic, watching the video, and examining the materials related to diverse cultural contexts

The second step on the path to developing the Contrasts competency of the global leader is based on the previous step of gathering the information and developing the knowledge. This step includes the work on understanding different cultures’ values and people’s needs. Tuleja (2014) states that leaders need to be sensitive in order to cooperate effectively with representatives of different ethnicities and backgrounds. According to Wibbeke (2013), “sensitivity, concern, and appreciation for other cultures are primary requirements for the new intercultural leader” (p. 77).

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Having gathered the information on different cultures within which a person plans to work, a leader needs to identify the values typical for these cultures to predict challenges in communication and cooperation. Global Leader Fellows note that to leverage talents, leaders need to inspire people as unique representatives of different cultures, and people will receive the opportunity to develop under the leaders’ guidance (World Economic Forum, 2009). Thus, the ideas of Global Leader Fellows and researchers in the field of intercultural communication and cultural intelligence seem to be similar.

From this point, while focusing on Global Leader Fellows’ words, it is possible to state that leaders need to develop their awareness of the other people’s value dimensions. Referring to Wibbeke (2013), it is necessary to concentrate on the principles of Care and Consciousness as reflecting the mentioned ideas. On the one hand, leaders need to understand what ethical rules and values are followed in different cultures (Miska, Stahl, & Mendenhall, 2013). On the other hand, leaders should become aware of how their actions can affect the people’s visions and reactions (Lisak & Erez, 2015).

As a result, leaders need to become mindful and responsive to the values and interests of representatives of different cultures. Caligiuri and Tarique (2012) also pay attention to the idea of the cultural flexibility in order to explain the behaviors appropriate for effective multicultural leaders. One of Global Leader Fellows noted that effective leaders are focused on making positive actions that are good for nations from the point of their culture and ethics (World Economic Forum, 2009). Thus, this statement is in line with the general vision that strong leaders are sensitive, ethical, and attentive to values, needs, and interests of the diverse population.

From this point, the actual steps that allow developing this leadership vision include the study of personal reactions to manifestations of different cultural aspects and unique characteristics. The study of the literature in the field allows speaking about the necessity of evaluating the personal abilities to demonstrate the unprejudiced reactions and tolerance in the majority of cases. Therefore, while referring to the discussed challenges in developing the awareness of cultural differences, it is important to state that the next proposed action supported by the intercultural theories should be formulated in the following way:

To observe how representatives of different cultures realize their ethical rules and values, reflect on the observed aspects, and develop the conscious and tolerant reactions to these cultural manifestations

The next important step is the development of the communication skills. Global Leader Fellows note that the leadership means the use of the effective communication skills to demonstrate the understanding, share the clear vision, and inspire followers (World Economic Forum, 2009). The development of communication skills can be supported by the theory of the intercultural communication and such principles formulated by Wibbeke (2013) as Communication and Change because the effective communication is the fundament for inspiring people for the further transformation.

The examination of the theories in the sphere of intercultural communication demonstrates that the effective multicultural interaction means code switching and the ability to address people referring to the communication channels and approaches typical of their cultures (Mendenhall, Reiche, Bird, & Osland, 2012). For instance, when working with the Japanese people, it is important to pay attention to the body language and to the structure of phrases to demonstrate the respect.

A global leader needs to communicate with the people from different cultures using messages that are appropriate for the context and understandable for many people. In addition, in support of Global Leader Fellows’ visions, Wibbeke (2013) states that “to be a true Geoleader you must recognize that cultures are always evolving and that your own intercultural education will never end” (p. 21). Future leaders need to use every chance to improve skills and practice communicating with representatives of different cultures in order to identify not only cultural patterns but also focus on the unique features (Caligiuri & Tarique, 2009). The researchers state that the positive result of such communication is the possibility to maintain the change in the concrete context (Bird, Mendenhall, Stevens, & Oddou, 2010). The skills in intercultural communication develop with the focus on the practice, and the next action in the plan should be the following one:

To practice communication with representatives of different cultures using the guidelines for global leaders and experience the communication in situations when people demonstrate ambiguous perspectives simultaneously, complicating the overall process of interaction

The final step is the evaluation of the achieved results. According to Global Leader Fellows, effective leaders need to learn from their mistakes in order to avoid repeating them in the future (World Economic Forum, 2009). According to Wibbeke (2013), these ideas are correlated with the principles behind the development of Capability when a leader needs to find the best ways to optimize and manage the processes and assess the outcomes to achieve the higher results. It is important to state that the evaluation of the successes in the multicultural communication is important to understand whether a person is prepared to communicate and operate effectively in the environment full of contrasts and under the pressure of the challenges in the intercultural communication. The final action in the plan is the following one:

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To conduct the evaluation of the demonstrated successes in the communication with representatives of different cultures with the focus on the developed ability to react to the contrasting values, perspectives, interests, and intentions of co-workers and partners openly, tolerantly, and without the bias

When all these actions and steps are completed, it is possible to state that a leader is prepared to demonstrate one of the most challenging competencies associated with Wibbeke’s principle of Contrasts. The literature provides the evidence to state that when a leader is able to react to different cultural situations adequately, control his emotions, and cope with the stress, it is possible to expect positive results in interacting with diverse people (Mendenhall et al., 2012). Thus, the ability to operate in ambiguous and contrasting contexts combines all other important skills that are developed with the focus on the intercultural communication principles.

The Role of Culture and the Strategy to Achieve the Success

Having developed the action plan to improve the leadership qualities and attain the set goal, it is important to focus on the role of the culture in the process of leading other persons. According to the relevant theories, each leader has the uniquely developed culture that is based on the ethnicity, national culture, personal qualities, values, and abilities (Wibbeke, 2013). In addition, there are many other cultural dimensions that are typical of people with whom a leader cooperates. Finally, there is also a corporate culture that needs to be developed by a leader in the proper way to achieve the high results (Elenkov & Manev, 2009; Lisak & Erez, 2015).

All these cultures are interconnected, and the task of a leader is to optimize the interaction between diverse individuals to develop the unique, successful corporate culture and to unite people while leveraging their abilities and skills. In addition to supporting the standard theoretical ideas on the point, Global Leader Fellows also state that leaders need to develop the sense of optimism and provide the people with the certain focus in order to unite the advantages of cultures to reach the set objectives (World Economic Forum, 2009). These ideas are consistent with the basic concepts and principles in this area because global leaders’ communication style, behavioral patterns, and actions are significantly influenced by contexts in which they interact and cultures that determine the main features of these environments.

The understanding of the concept of culture plays the key role in leading individuals and improving the work of global organizations. It is important for leaders to accept the significance of culture because of the necessity to become flexible and oriented to multiple contrasting visions and ideas. The reason is that the culture is the factor influencing individuals’ values, traditions, attitudes, and actions (Li et al., 2013; Miska et al., 2013). Furthermore, the aspect of the culture also affects the work of global organizations in terms of adaptation and resistance. Thus, if a global organization works in the culturally diverse or ambiguous environment, this aspect needs to be taken into account while adapting the activities to certain contexts (Ng et al., 2009). It is also important to pay attention to the culture while focusing on the development of the Contrasts competency and learning how to understand and maintain the cultural differences while avoiding the resistance.

Conclusion

The process of preparing the leadership action plan is based on the analysis of Global Leader Fellows’ statements on the topic that are compared to the theories and principles learned in relation to the cross-cultural communication and global leadership. It is possible to state that the ideas claimed by Global Leader Fellows are mostly similar to concepts associated with the theory of intercultural communication, global leadership, or geoleadership. The reason is that the aspect of global leadership is grounded on the basic principles that are easily formulated by researchers to be followed by practitioners.

The statements of Global Leader Fellows indicate that the individuals who achieved the success in the sphere of leadership are inclined to follow the principles adopted worldwide and demonstrate certain competencies that are associated with global leadership. The analysis of Global Leader Fellows’ vision of the future leader’s profile is important to select the steps that can lead to completing the global leadership goal and be supported by theories and researchers’ findings in the area. Therefore, the action plan for the development of the competency of Contrasts that is formulated in order to succeed as a global leader includes four important steps or actions to take.

References

Bird, A., Mendenhall, M., Stevens, M. J., & Oddou, G. (2010). Defining the content domain of intercultural competence for global leaders. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25(8), 810-828.

Caligiuri, P., & Tarique, I. (2009). Predicting effectiveness in global leadership activities. Journal of World Business, 44(3), 336-346.

Caligiuri, P., & Tarique, I. (2012). Dynamic cross-cultural competencies and global leadership effectiveness. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 612-622.

Elenkov, D. S., & Manev, I. M. (2009). Senior expatriate leadership’s effects on innovation and the role of cultural intelligence. Journal of World Business, 44(4), 357-369.

Li, M., Mobley, W. H., & Kelly, A. (2013). When do global leaders learn best to develop cultural intelligence? An investigation of the moderating role of experiential learning style. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 12(1), 32-50.

Lisak, A., & Erez, M. (2015). Leadership emergence in multicultural teams: The power of global characteristics. Journal of World Business, 50(1), 3-14.

Mendenhall, M. E., Reiche, B. S., Bird, A., & Osland, J. S. (2012). Defining the “global” in global leadership. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 493-503.

Miska, C., Stahl, G. K., & Mendenhall, M. E. (2013). Intercultural competencies as antecedents of responsible global leadership. European Journal of International Management, 7(5), 550-569.

Ng, K. Y., Van Dyne, L., & Ang, S. (2009). From experience to experiential learning: Cultural intelligence as a learning capability for global leader development. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 8(4), 511-526.

Tuleja, E. A. (2014). Developing cultural intelligence for global leadership through mindfulness. Journal of Teaching in International Business, 25(1), 5-24.

Wibbeke, E. (2013). Global business leadership. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

World Economic Forum. (2009). Global Leadership Fellows – Interviews with Leaders. Web.

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