By 2030 more than one-half of the world’s GDP will be generated in what are currently classified as “emerging markets.”
In a new study of its membership base, CEB (previously the Corporate Executive Board) examined the leadership challenge of this intensifying reconfiguration of the global business marketplace. It found that 60% of its member companies plan on significantly increasing their global footprint during the next three years but that a lack of globally capable leaders was likely to become a significant impediment to growth and sustaining success.
In the study CEB analyzed the business performance of more than 12,000 senior global leaders at 90 companies and discovered a striking difference between businesses with what it termed “Great Global Leaders”—those who can successfully operate across multiple and diverse geographies—and those without. It reports that Great Global Leaders are almost three times more likely than their peers to be guiding a business that is achieving its performance objectives three years in a row. “Unfortunately, Great Global Leaders are rare, as fewer than one in five senior leaders in the organizations surveyed qualify as Great Global Leaders. Without an adequate pipeline of effective global leaders, most organizations will struggle to be successful—and many will ultimately fail,” the study concludes.
We are told that “understandably” organizations are rethinking, retooling, and (in some cases) reinventing their leadership development programs to create more and better leaders. Yet the review of organizations’ strategies for strengthening their global leader pipeline shows that most approaches are “deeply flawed”. CEB report that some organizations “mistakenly” assume global leadership is the same as other forms of leadership and produce leaders who lack the special skills required for cross-market management. “Others make the opposite mistake”—assuming global leadership is an entirely unique set of skills and capabilities— “producing leaders with profiles inconsistent with the organization’s overall leadership needs.” The survey found that the best companies build Great Global Leaders by striking a balance between these two extremes—identifying, improving, and building leaders’ important core skills and capabilities while also enabling them to be more effective in complex global environments.
Key findings include:
- Many great leaders do not want global roles. CEB finds that only 35% of successful global leaders aspired to be in global roles. Global leadership roles may be unattractive to many leaders for two reasons. First, the link between most global assignments and the long-term career opportunities for leaders is frequently unclear. Second, the relocation, travel, and personal disruption costs of taking on global roles are often significant deterrents, especially for rising leaders.
- Executives should challenge the long-held assumption that to be successful, leaders need to live in the markets they manage. A review of leader performance shows that relocation is not always necessary for success.
- With global leaders likely having responsibility for individuals and teams over which they lack direct authority, the leader’s success or failure often hinges on his or her ability to work through others. A leader’s capacity to influence—being a compelling force or producing effects on the actions, behavior, and opinions of others— increases the probability that someone is a Great Global Leader by 27%.
- Being a successful global leader does not require increasing time spent working; rather, it requires working in a different way. Great Global Leaders spend more time networking with two important groups—clients and peers.