The Key to Success: Global Leadership. Really!

by Janice Giannini

With a deep mastering at the intersection of IT and business strategy, consultant, board adviser and former C-suite executive, Janice has been harnessing the true power of IT for more than 30 years. An Executive and Board-level digital strategist at the intersection of risk and IT, she enhances competitive position through vision and equity with large-scale risk identification, quantification and mitigation in an ever-changing marketplace, generating long-term value for clients. She engages with senior executives and teams, particularly in complex businesses where misalignment is blocking their desired success, to develop and execute practical business strategies and plans. Clients have found her especially helpful when they recognize they must integrate an eagle's eye and worm's eye view in order to identify and remove obstacles. Janice has consistently taken on those challenges that others chose to run from. This typically involves those challenging times when failure is not an option and integrating business, technology and people changes must be accomplished simultaneously. As a result, many of her clients are complex organizations who won't settle for anything less than developing widespread professional competence.

It has been opined by Fareed Zakaria of CNN that we are in a Post- American world. It is a world not dominated by the United States and not by anyone else yet, either. He has also opined that the key ingredients for economic and social success in the 20th Century were labor and capital. While the key ingredients for success in the 21st century will be ideas and energy.

I offer that Mr. Zakaria's assessment dovetails with the desire of CEO's today, to build executive teams with global leadership capabilities. So what does global leadership capability mean? And how is it different in the era of leading ideas and energy?

To address these two questions, it is essential to understand what capabilities are needed to lead ideas and energy globally, to what extent leadership practices based on labor and capital can be carried forward and what practices need to morph or change. We will leave for another time the question of "what happens if the US does not move quickly enough down the path to global leadership?".

In the era where labor and capital were the key ingredients to success, the environment can be summarized generally as:

  • Capital was concentrated in specific locations
  • Labor was concentrated in a countable number of locations
  • Company culture could be defined and reinforced more readily due to geographic coincidence
  • Team discussions could be facilitated more frequently
  • Management by walking around was feasible, if a leader chose to do so
  • Practices to build trust, motivation and collaborative solutions relied on co-location to a great extent, to keep people focused
  • Team and company performance were more readily measured, assessed and improved
  • Information sharing both positive as well as negative was prolific. Due to the countable number of locations, issues could be addressed more effectively.

In the era of leading where ideas and energy are critical to success, the environmental summary might look like this:

  • Are there capital requirements; does the capital need to be co-located or concentrated
  • Are the people generating the ideas co-located with each other, with the capital centers, or widely dispersed both geographically and culturally
  • Is there one company culture to define and reinforce; what needs to be reinforced geographically and culturally
  • Is the team concept the same , or does it change in size and complexity as ideas are generated; what is the best way to facilitate team discussions in a geographically/culturally dispersed environment
  • Is there an equivalent to the practice of "management by walking around" , in an era where resources are globally dispersed
  • Is there a new practice for building trust, motivation and collaborative solutions when the idea generators can be spread across the globe; how do you keep people focused
  • Is there a practice for measuring, assessing and improving upon ideas and energy creation
  • Is there an effective way to proactively share information; is minimizing the downside of negative information even possible in today's connected world; and how much of the negative information actually spurs ideas and energy, so it is essential to creation

For global leaders to lead with confidence, inspire people to follow, and effectively navigate the economic, social, and company environments, they need to focus on developing/transforming themselves first. The attributes/ ingredients for success look like this:

  • High level of self-awareness. Understanding how one occurs for others and therefore influences interactions is critical to building relationships and trust. In a geographically or functionally dispersed environment, it is more difficult to build and maintain both.
  • High level of transparency. In the era of ideas and energy aka people, greater understanding facilitates greater ideas
  • Appropriate level of dispersed power-sharing. Growth will spring out of ideas, energy and technology, which typically reside with a greater percent of people who are potentially less senior and geographically dispersed.
  • Consistent sense of curiosity/ inquisitiveness. In the era of ideas and energy, a requirement for any team member, up to and including the leader, is the desire to always ask why? Or why not?
  • Positive attitude and motivation. Anything less, naturally dampens ideas and energy generation.
  • Excellent social skills for building relationships across cultures (geographically as well as functionally), collaborating and negotiating
  • Effective knowledge of the business and how the external environment impacts the business
  • Capability to recognize, understand and effectively incorporate the impact of social forces in business decisions. Social forces can be driven by people, company, culture, country, and/or function. Therefore social awareness and empathy become critical.
  • Capability to accept, understand and incorporate the increasing complexity and contradictions that occur in the world today

I wrote this article to highlight that global leadership makes different demands on business leaders in today's world. In order for the US to maintain its economic prosperity, all leaders need to become effective global leaders. This statement stands whether or not you consider your company as a global company. I also realized that in many ways, effective technology leadership in particular is synonymous with global leadership. The effective technology leader typically deals with many or all of these characteristics on a daily basis. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the technology leaders to lead the way.