The Challenges of Leadership in a Global Marketplace

Leadership in a competitive marketplace is extremely challenging. You must always be scanning the horizon, looking for the next critical trend, while still paying attention to the here and now. The challenge increases in difficulty exponentially when your marketplace is not only competitive, but global as well.

Dealing with cultural differences
Many leaders struggle to deal with cultural differences in their global workforce. As companies branch out and take advantage of opportunities in other countries, the leaders of those companies must maintain their profitability and competitive edge while understanding and accommodating cultural differences.

An increasingly popular way of dealing with cultural differences is to send managers and company leaders on a work rotation to the country where the workforce lives. It is an eye-opening experience for leaders and employees alike to spend an extended period of time getting to know each other and learning to work effectively together.

When it is not feasible to send an executive overseas for a lengthy period, the next most popular option is to provide training and education in the other culture. Companies go to great lengths to help their managers and executives become comfortable with other cultures, including bringing in native speakers, teaching a foreign language, immersion in the culture, and other types of education.

Encouraging diversity
As the global economy has grown and prospered, the workplace has become increasingly diversified. This presents a challenge to managers and leaders when trying to bring a diverse team of workers together. Change is hard for anyone, and changing to a diverse group is especially hard for some people.

As a leader, you can meet this challenge by educating and coaching your team to work together and learn about each other. This can be done in a formal team building activity, or in a more individualized way as part of everyday coaching and supervision. Combining both methods is even more effective.

The limits of technology
Technology is what has allowed the global marketplace to flourish, and it is a tremendous tool for conducting business in nearly every corner of the world. There is no substitute, however, for face to face interactions and time spent working together in close proximity.

Your job as a leader is to take advantage of the available technology, such as the internet, web conferencing, and telecommunications, while understanding and overcoming technology’s limitations. For instance, if your workforce is located in multiple places, don’t rely solely on satellite or internet connections for interacting with your employees. Take the time and make the effort to travel to those locations so that you can meet them, listen to them, and show them that you are a real human being who cares about their growth and development.

Another good option is to arrange work exchanges among different workgroups. Send a small group of employees from one location to spend a few days in another location, and then reverse the process. Your team will appreciate the opportunity to expand their horizons and the personal connections made on such a trip are likely to create improved work performance.

Summary
As challenging as it is to be an effective leader in the global marketplace, it is not impossible. You can improve your effectiveness by learning how to deal with the specific issues associated with a global presence. Education, training, mentoring, coaching and hands on learning are great ways to rise to the challenge.