Trust and respect are critical for successful cross-cultural leadership, survey finds

Trust and respect are among the six key competencies needed for successful cross-cultural leadership, according to a global study of nearly 2,000 leaders in 13 countries.

Carried out by Right Management, the talent and career management arm of Manpower Group, and HR assessment company Tucker International, the survey explored the competencies that leaders need in order to operate across cultures, continents and diverse markets.

The study identified six intercultural competencies essential for leading multinational organisations:

  1. Adapting Socially - To socialise comfortably with new people in unfamiliar social situations and to demonstrate interest in other people.
  2. Demonstrating Creativity - To enjoy new challenges, strive for innovative solutions to social and situational issues and to learn from a variety of sources.
  3. Even Disposition - To remain calm, not being critical of oneself and learn from mistakes.
  4. Respecting Beliefs - Demonstrate respect for the political and spiritual beliefs of people in other cultures.
  5. Instilling Trust - To build and maintain trusting relationships.
  6. Navigating Ambiguity - To see through vagueness and uncertainty, not become frustrated, and figure out how things are done in other cultures.

"Global leadership requires operating amid ambiguity and complexity," said Owen J. Sullivan, Right Management CEO and President of Manpower Group Specialty Brands.

"We found that global leadership calls for particular behaviours and competencies. Identifying the key competencies that assure successful outcomes and developing those thoroughly allow scarce talent and development dollars to be invested wisely. In this way organisations may get the greatest potential return on their global leaders."

The six competencies identified in the study focus on skills that have become increasingly more relevant in a global operating environment. "These competencies are instrumental to the core skills that every business leader needs, such as business acumen and financial management and agility," said Mr Sullivan.

Analysis of the findings indicates that when the six competencies are fully present successful global leaders:

  • Enjoy new challenges, strive for innovative solutions and situational issues and learn from a variety of sources
  • Build and maintain trusting relationships
  • Socialise comfortably with new people in unfamiliar social situations and demonstrate interest in other people
  • See through vagueness and uncertainty, do not become frustrated and figure out how things are done in other cultures
  • Remain calm, do not become self-critical and learn from mistakes
  • Demonstrate respect for the political and spiritual beliefs of people of other cultures

Mr Sullivan advised that development of leaders is the most strategic initiative companies can invest in to create competitive advantage. "In what we now regard as the Human Age, employers may no longer rely on out-dated work models, talent sources, people practices and leadership techniques to achieve success.

“The key to productivity is building a talent strategy that takes advantage of the best available innovations, information and technology. Top management has to recognise that people have become their most valuable assets and must optimise these assets to deliver results."

According to Mr Sullivan, the study will help senior management select managers for overseas assignments, build international bench strength, localise country management teams and measure success of development investments.


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