No Cape Necessary

superhero

Successful global leaders take risks by putting themselves in unfamiliar situations and challenging their mental models.  ~ Being Global

Who among us is able to speak multiple languages with a single tongue, leap into worldwide professional networks without falter and possess extensive international experience?

Is it a bird, a plane, or superman?

Nope.

Dubbed the “global elite” in a May 2013 Harvard Business Review article based on their book called Being Global, authors Gregory C. Unruh, Professor from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and Angel Cabrera, President of George Mason University, describe global business leaders creating value by helping their organizations adopt a global perspective and the steps necessary for wannabes to join their ranks.

First, they say, you need to acquire the knowledge, skills and perspective needed by teaching yourself to think globally.  This comes from asking questions (and not assuming you know all the answers), studying other cultures both formally (in school) and informally (reading foreign literature, watching foreign films, etc.), and keeping an open mind to explore other cultures, welcome new experiences and develop empathy for issues in other nationalities.

More than thinking globally though, you have to act globally as well by actively cultivating friends and relationships crossing cultural boundaries and collaborating with people from other cultures.

The author’s suggest events such as the World Economic Forum, the Boao Forum for Asia, the Clinton Global Initiative, TED conferences, the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival and Google’s Zeitgeist are good places to forge new relationships with other global elites.  While these are big name, exclusive events may not be practical, start by doing things in your local industry and professional networks and don’t forget to tap into social media opportunities as well.

A global leader’s value comes from transcending boundaries and connecting people who otherwise would not be connected.  To do this, the author’s suggest you situate yourself in the center of your network and start making introductions.

Travel and learning a foreign language are the other key actions.  Experiences in foreign contexts are valuable contributors to your knowledge base as a global leader.  Physically get out there and explore the unfamiliar.  Talk with native speakers and read works of literature in the language you are studying.  Discuss politics, religion, philosophy – whatever gets you out and speaking.

All this “thinking” and “doing” takes time and hard work but considering the number of people working in foreign subsidiaries rose from 25 million to more than 81 million over the past thirty years, there is a high demand for these skill sets.

Becoming one of the “global elites” is not exclusive to a superhero club of well-traveled people raised in multilingual and multicultural homes.  It is for people willing to make the effort to learn about, and interact with, culturally diverse groups.  Wearing the cape, however, is optional.

Sherry Dineen

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