I started academically studying leadership, specifically global leadership, in 2011 when I entered a Ph.D. program. Academia by nature is full of theories, and the theories do not always align with real experiences. But the world of leadership studies was fresh and inspiring, and I started blurring the lines between research and practice in the leadership field. As I synthesized these two areas, it brought a deeper conviction to my journey of developing global leaders.
Living in and traveling to multiple countries around the world for 15 years serving for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and spending four years researching leadership on a doctoral level has led me to write this book that synthesizes my academic research with my practical experience. The type of global leadership described in the five principles of this book is effective in any organization. The context changes, but how you manage the context and complexities will determine the effectiveness of your leadership. Working with global organizations, I see many obstacles to being a successful global leader, such as organizational development, strategic planning, and effective communication. Most leaders I work with can manage and follow a task or directive, but few can create processes such as strategic plans in which they identify local challenges and create global opportunities. Why do many leaders have difficulty developing into global leaders? The issue is based in complexity.
What makes global leadership so complex? Is it the well-known difficulties of cross-cultural communication or the inability to develop a global mindset? Although the answer is yes to both questions, they are not the main reasons. The complexity of global leadership is the most obvious when leaders have to make strategic decisions for an organization filled with crisis, conflict, and a diverse background of followers.
By choosing to present the five principles of leadership in a global context, I look at the comparison of global and domestic leadership, cognitive complexity, and the development of global leaders. The first task in understanding the impact of the five principles is to form a true definition of global leadership. The definition encompasses more than just selling products across national boundaries.
A Global Leader is a person who leads across cultures with systems, processes, and relationships in a complex environment.
Complex, cross-cultural leadership can happen within the geographical boundaries of one nation or can span over oceans and across multiple countries. During my most recent trip to India, I was in a meeting with the top leaders of an organization. I noticed that the leaders segmented and formed groups that were discussing issues in their respective mother tongues. Among the 15 participants in the training, there were five different languages, five different people groups, and five different cultures. This is why English is the organizational language for most Indian companies. Even though the organization only operates inside the geographical boundaries of India, these leaders are global leaders.
Using the above definition, academic research, and my experiences, I will describe the five leadership principles that allow global leaders to manage the complexities with systems, processes, and relationships. These are the foundational principles that all leaders need to exhibit, and they are the building blocks for other necessary characteristics of an effective leader. We all have an opportunity to lead in some part of life, but those who implement principles of integrity, purpose, sacrifice, discipline, and compassion are most likely remembered as leaders who made a positive impact in their organization, communities, and world. If a person applies these characteristics to life, he or she will see fruit from the investment and build credibility and experiences that will attract followers, which is important because you are not a leader unless you have followers.