Being a global leader in today’s world requires much more than operating skills, technical understanding, and financial knowledge. Global leaders should be keenly aware of the impact of current and potential geopolitical events on their business and possess a high level of self-awareness, cultural sensitivity, and humility in order to empower people throughout the world.

No longer is it sufficient to meet the demands of shareholders and the laws and ethics of their home markets without regard for the negative consequences their businesses may have for the countries in which they operate. Today’s global leaders should guide their organisations to become partners with local governments to support the progress in their society. They must demonstrate a strong commitment to the company’s values and set the highest ethical standards.

Under the leadership of CEO Sam Palmisano, IBM shifted its organisation from its long-standing multinational structure to the ‘globally integrated enterprise’ (GIE). Palmisano asked three questions:

  • How do you channel this diverse talent and invaluable experience into a common purpose?
  • How do you marshal the collective aspirations of (480,000) people?
  • How do we ensure, despite our size and complexity that we work as a unified team?

“In this world of intense scrutiny, where everyone is looking at what you do…one reaction is to create management systems, more process, more controls, and more bureaucracy. Relying on traditional supervision, process and controls would inhibit serving clients responsively, and stifle employees’ creative energies. We cannot apply Industrial age management systems to address post Industrial age needs. There is a better alternative, which is to trust employees. Values are the glue, the bond that binds us together in the absence of controls. These must be genuinely shared values; they can’t be imposed top- down. Values provide employees a framework to make decisions when management systems and procedures are unclear. It comes down to judgment, based on shared values.”

Developing global enterprise leaders will take a different type of leadership experience combined with leadership development programmes, unlike most of today’s corporate learning programmes. Traditionally, the latter have focused on managerial skills and building one’s knowledge base functional, as well as indoctrinating rising executives in the company’s culture and its modus operandi. Yet the shortcomings of their leaders – and subsequent failures – usually result from the lack of emotional intelligence (EQ). As Novartis’ Jimenez reflects on what is required to develop its cadre of global leaders, he notes, “When we assess Novartis leaders on leading self, leading teams, and leading their business, self is the weakest.”

To develop global leaders who can succeed with the 21st century challenges, a building block approach is needed. Harvard Business School professors teach that at the base is IQ, which is strengthened through the acquisition of knowledge, information, and critical analytical skills. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is built on top of a strong IQ. As important as IQ and EQ are in defining leaders, for global leaders a much broader set of qualities is required called “global intelligence,” or GQ. GQ consists of seven elements, all of which are essential for future global leaders:

  1. Adaptability to Changing World
  2. Self‐awareness
  3. Cultural curiosity
  4. Empathy
  5. Alignment
  6. Collaboration
  7. Integration

Adaptability to Changing World: Being a global leader today necessitates having the ability to the world as it is and to anticipate changes coming in the years ahead. Global leaders must be able to adapt quickly to the rapidly changing global context by shifting resources to opportunity areas and developing contingency plans to cope with adverse geopolitical situations.

Self-awareness: In the global context, leaders need to understand themselves at a deep level – their strengths, vulnerabilities, and biases – in order to perceive how they will react to the strong cultural differences they will encounter. The key to their self-awareness requires a high level of humility in order to recognise that other cultures often have better ways of doing things and are guided by different cultural norms.

Cultural curiosity: Global leaders must have a deep curiosity about myriad cultures and an understanding of how they operate. This includes a personal passion for diverse experiences and an insatiable desire to learn about other cultures.

Empathy: Empathy means an appreciation of the impact of cultural differences and the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. This requires humility and the ability to engage people from different cultures on a personal basis, rather than standing back and judging them. This kind of empathy builds rapport, bonding on a human level, and the building of lasting relationships.

Alignment: The challenge for global leaders is aligning employees around the company’s purpose, mission and values, a commitment that transcends national and cultural differences.

Collaboration: In a global context, collaboration is the ability to create horizontal networks that cut across geographic lines, bring people together around a common set of goals, and create a modus operandi that transcends geographic goals.

Integration: The greatest challenge global leaders’ face is to incorporate local and global issues into an integrated corporate strategy. As Unilever’s Manwani says, “We have a globally distributed organisational model that balances local relevance with global leverage. We already have great presence in developing markets. We don’t believe in ‘Think local, act global’; instead, we believe in ‘act local, think global’.”