21st Century Leadership Skills: Global Thinking | What does mean for leadership development?

By Govert van Sandwijk · December 27, 2018 · Posted in: Leadership Development

Global means a lot of different things to executive leadership today. On one level, we’re constantly reminded of the need to adapt, grow, learn, and adopt with the changing business environment. All the buzz words you could possibly think of are linked in some way to the ‘global’ concept—disruption, transformation, digitalization, globalization, and many more. All reminding us that nothing ever occurs in a vacuum, especially not business.

I’d like to suggest that ‘knowing’ how to lead more effectively—more powerfully—means taking a moment to look inside, rather than outside, for once. Here, and now, I’d like to invite you to stop and look inside the concept of global thinking itself.

It’s about adopting a holistic perspective…

Leadership development courses often place heavy emphasis on the importance of taking a holistic perspective. Designing strategy relies heavily on understanding different areas, people, and processes, but also on a strong knowledge of different connections between them. A strategy for growth, competition, both, or something else entirely only gets you to your goal if you consider the links between different aspects and facets that impact each other. And, of course, the industry environment.

This doesn’t mean trying to predict the next disruptive innovation, or guessing how supply chains might evolve even further. At the very core of global thinking is acceptance. Acceptance about the fact that what’s happening over there (sometimes way over there), is going to mean real things for the way you shape your strategy. And that very often means at least another two things. First, always look at your context. Second, don’t just look at how it is now, but open your mind to how it could very well be, sooner or later.   

…Staying focused on the bigger picture

Unironically, this links back to connections once more. This openness that comes with a global perspective means a diversity of things to different leaders. Whether you’re thinking about looking overseas, innovating, or even how digitalization might (further!) transform your industry, link it back. Link it back to how you lead, to what A over there could do for B over here.

So, being perceptive is one thing. Using what you know to drive your business is another. And getting others to embrace global thinking is yet another—but in short, it’s about not being afraid to use global thinking to lead, shape, and drive your business or department.

…and keeping minds open.

It’s not just our minds that need to be open. As a leader, you can help grow a culture that’s accepting, open, and globally-minded, too. Compared to other facets of leadership, getting others excited about possibilities is not hard at all. Open up discussions and invite ideas, and you may be surprised to discover how rich your collective global thinking really is. Set the pace, listen to others, and ask for opinions. Incentivize global thinking, or challenge people to think outside the box when it comes to the bigger picture. Even consider how global thinking might work as a shared value.

You’ll quickly find that whatever you decide to do, it’s an effective way of learn more about and bonding with those around you at the same time. Incentives, sharing, dialogue, and more can all be part of how you create the conditions for a more globally-minded organization. Let’s accept global thinking.

Interested in taking your leadership skills on edge? Learn more about our Leadership Xperience Program.

Govert is Time To Grow Global’s Managing Partner, specializing in Strategy Facilitation, Leadership development and Organisational performance. Reach him on our Time To Grow Global LinkedIn.

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