Globalization presents unique leadership development challenges for companies in the construction and engineering fields. Grooming leaders who can look beyond traditional, domestic borders and adopt a global mindset takes time and requires an entirely new learning approach. Here are eight strategies to use when cultivating global leaders.
- Develop “cultural empathy.” Global leadership development needs to focus heavily on enhancing emotional intelligence, empowerment and self-awareness, promoting empathy and respect for different opinions and viewpoints.
- Develop a diverse mindset and worldview. Start building a workforce today that encourages diversity, understanding of different cultures and aptitude across new languages.
- Understand customers in new geographic markets. This is particularly true in emerging economies that require diversity across the highest levels of the organization. Opportunities at the highest levels, including C-suite and CEO, must therefore be open to people of all national origins.
- Focus on decentralized leadership. Today’s global leaders do not act like traditional hierarchical managers. Through emotional intelligence and self-awareness, they are able to lead a diverse workforce and align employees around their organization’s vision, goals and values. Rather than focusing on hierarchy, they concentrate on values and empower their local (geographically dispersed) teams to run their operations in ways that align with local cultures, governments and communities.
- Broaden the reach of leadership development. Giving future global leaders the opportunity to live and work abroad is a great way for them to broaden their mindset. This approach helps to: 1) Self-select whether or not they can handle leading abroad (this is the primary reason for expatriate-turnover); 2) Learn another language, culture, business model, regulations, etc.; and 3) Provide the organization with insights into whether or not that region or location is worth targeting.
- Stretch assignments across continents. Give leaders a typical assignment (e.g., design a building, order materials, etc.) but base it in the United States. Once they have completed the task, have them go through the same process in three or four different countries, all with varying cultures (e.g., China, Russia, Brazil, Dubai, Mexico, Australia, etc.).
- Leverage cross-training opportunities. Train leaders in differing skills within the organization. Chances are, they will need to have some knowledge of each area in order to run an international office. After all, overseas locations are typically much smaller offices where people wear multiple hats on a daily basis.
- Use organizationwide training on the same initiatives. The goal here is to get everyone rowing in the same direction by making sure that all future expatriates are all working towards the same organizational vision. If they are not, or they have stronger self-interests, then things can go wrong quickly.
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