global leadership development 2014

4 Ways to Take Global Leadership Development to the Next Level

It seems inconceivable that the effectiveness of global leadership development efforts is declining in a time when organizations are increasingly working with global partners, suppliers, customers, and employees. But it is. In 2010, 42% of organizations considered their global leadership development (GLD) programs highly effective; in 2014, that percentage plummeted to just 19%. Organizations may be tempering their assessments of effectiveness due to dissatisfaction with the results expected from their global leadership development efforts or it may be a reflection of the increased emphasis on providing measurable progress.

Global Leadership Development: Preparing Leaders for a Globalized Market, the fifth annual collaborative study by i4cp and the American Management Association, explores the current state of global leadership development and uncovers four ways organizations can bring global leadership development effectiveness back on an upswing:

1. Immerse global leaders in local knowledge

A thorough understanding of the cultures and customs of local markets is essential for creating a global leadership development curriculum, building competencies and delivering learning. But this understanding doesn't necessarily need to come via physical immersion in the region. Technology should be leveraged to connect with local experts who can share knowledge about the culture of the region and the customers, for example.

Two practices differentiate high-performance organizations from lower-performing ones and both also and link to global leadership development effectiveness. They are:

  • delivery of a consistent global leadership development experience worldwide (7 times as many high-performance organizations do this)
  • utilization of local resources in development and delivery of the global leadership curriculum (twice as many high-performance organizations do this).

Global IT applications provider Oracle, an i4cp member company, has successfully balanced these two practices and is featured as a case study in the report. In developing content for its global leadership program, Oracles utilized a global team with members from EMEA, India, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the U.S.

2. Seek leaders who model collaboration and influence

These skills are brought to bear in teaching employees with diverse learning styles and in leading virtual teams. Both are strongly linked to global leadership development effectiveness. This emphasis on influence follows last year's findings that defined leaders, not by job titles but as those who influence.

W.W. Grainger, Inc., also an i4cp member firm, is helping its leaders develop influence skills via its nine-month global leadership development process. Participants are part of an action learning team that works on an enterprise-wide business challenge. Renata Viskanta, director, learning & development and leadership & organization effectiveness, said, "At year end, the team's final presentation tells a story, in equal measure, about the strategy and implementation plan they've created as well as their leadership development journey. It's a high-visibility development opportunity and also a great tool for introducing the Board to upcoming talent."

3. Focus selection on behaviors

Global leadership development selection is best made using objective evidence from those who have observed and documented behaviors related to skills and competencies, as well as the individual's performance track record and the use of behavioral assessments. While the recommendations of senior leaders (64%) or immediate supervisors (48%) are popular methods of selection, they could be viewed as subjective, and neither is linked to global leadership development effectiveness.

Objective approaches to selection, such as behavioral assessments or reports from a coach, were found to be linked to market performance and global leadership development effectiveness. The guidance of a coach or mentor also surfaced as effective strategies in i4cp's 2013 study How High-Performing Organizations Accelerate Executive Leadership Development.

4. Pull long-term business needs into the mix

Create a global leadership development curriculum based on future-focused skills and competency needs of the business. Building on the 2013 iteration of this study, which found that using strategic workforce planning to influence global leadership development curriculum was a differentiating practice for high-performance organizations, the 2014 findings also point to the wisdom of using future-focused practices. These include:

  • determining future key roles (1.5 times as many high-performance firms do this as lower-performing ones)
  • identifying the skills needed for those roles (twice as many high-performance firms do this as lower-performing ones)
  • conducting an internal skills inventory (46% of high-performance firms do this while only 28% of lower-performing ones do)
  • performing an environmental scan to determine if the talent pool is abundant or scarce (just 25% of high-performance firms are doing this, yet it is highly linked to both global leadership development effectiveness and market performance).

The study also found that the input of corporate senior leadership and the organization's board of directors in developing global leadership development curriculum are practices correlated to GLD effectiveness and market performance. This kind of top-level ownership of global leadership development is demonstrated by global agriculture/industrial supplier Cargill--another i4cp member firm featured in the report. Cargill's global leadership development program has support from top-of-the-house, to include the CEO. "We get regular senior leader perspective by having leaders teach leaders across our top programs. They shape the curriculum they are delivering, and we tap them for the capabilities we need to build next," says Ian Stephenson, vice president, organizational effectiveness at Cargill.

A dedicated global leadership development program is ideal for building the capabilities needed to succeed in a global business environment. But the study found that even addressing global skills within an already established leadership development program is an effective approach. Organizations that shortchange their leaders and potential leaders by neglecting to develop global skills and behaviors will ultimately shortchange their ability to retain key talent and compete on the global stage.

Much more detail is available in the full Global Leadership Development: Preparing Leaders for a Globalized Market report--i4cp members can download it now on the i4cp website.