There has never been a more important time for business leaders to go after global opportunities and yet pursuing those opportunities has never been more fraught with risk, was the theme of Gurnek Bains’ thought-provoking opening speech on globalisation.
With issues like the Eurozone crisis, ebola and oil price crashes adding to an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, business leaders need to grow their cultural intelligence and empathy – traits many are lacking.
“People have a huge amount of unconscious bias when it comes to leadership styles. Many have the belief that their way is the only way of doing things,” said Bains.
This unconscious bias – often towards Western leadership models – is at odds with the requirements of globalisation, where leaders need to spend more time getting under the skin of the local environment and stop imposing values rooted in their home nation.
Bains then focused on six strengths and challenges facing leaders, analysing data from a survey of more than 200 global CEOs. He revealed that leaders from emerging markets are stronger on drive and ambition when compared with Western leaders, while Middle Eastern leaders are the strongest when it comes to commercial thinking.
He concluded by looking at the UK: “Every country faces a challenge around global competition, but the UK is uniquely placed to be a global connector economy through its history and global relationships. We must develop leadership in a global context.”