Global leadership excellence quest - influence

Written by
Changeboard Team

10 Dec 2013

10 Dec 2013 • by Changeboard Team

CEB's global leaders study

In the Corporate Executive Board’s study of 11,500 global leaders, we found that they need more effective management of costs and margins in emerging markets. Organisations are placing a bigger bet on growth in global markets. Unlike the past where they tended to be more focused on establishing a foothold in emerging markets and growing the top line, companies have become more globally mature and cost-conscious, demanding to see more effective management of spending as well as margins.

To complicate matters, companies struggle to navigate emerging markets as the regulatory, political and business environment tends to be very different from more mature markets. If you’re taking on the responsibility of managing new regions or new businesses, you need to show a good dose of humility and openness to your new team. Acknowledge they need to absorb and learn before making big changes. You only build credibility by demonstrating real understanding of the clients and organization you are managing.

Global vision and geographies

Have a vision specific for the region. An overly generic corporate vision that lacks specific strategic investments or steps to take in the regions will fail to engage local teams and clients. Regions often feel too far removed from what is perceived to be a lofty corporate vision with no explicit connection as to how it will play out for them.

The biggest impact a leader can have globally is to make corporate visions and strategies concrete for the regions. You need to develop a realistic view on resources and the talent required to grow your region over three to five years – not just a view into quarter-by-quarter performance. Avoid being overly dependent on expat executives rotating through regions every two to three years. These expat executives rarely spend enough time in the market to build a sustainable organization anchored in strong, local, self-sufficient leadership teams.

Influence and delivering impact

Of the 21 core leadership competencies analysed in the CEB study, ‘influence’ came out as the single most important trait for global leaders. We define this as the capacity or power of a leader to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, and opinions of others across a global organization.

Leadership competencies

Influence matters more for global leaders (leaders across multiple markets) than single-country leaders because they often have less control over central resources and strategies that impact their markets. The way to think of influence is as an ‘enabler’ of other core competency areas such as decision making, resource allocation and creativity. Global leaders who score high on influence are up to 50% more effective in other core leadership competencies compared with those who are not effective at influencing. 

Global checklist

1.Avoid siloed career paths.
Get a good understanding of the operations of your organization, external clients and competitors. Create networks with peers, executives and clients across regions and functions.

2. Take risks and be decisive early on.
Be sensitive to cultural differences, but don’t let it paralyze your ability to make early decisions about your strategy and the set up of your organization. Create a regionally relevant vision and strategy. Make it clear what corporate areas of focus are relevant from a regional growth perspective and what’s less important.

3. Identify rising talent deeper in the organization and place these individuals in ‘stretch role’ experiences. If possible these should take place in other global markets early on in their careers, often at the corporate centre, so they can create internal networks and firmwide strategic understanding.

4. Avoid the ‘quick win paradox’. Making sure you demonstrate quick wins in a new leadership job is important, but leaders often fail in the long term because they try to achieve these successes alone instead of through their teams. Focus on building collective team wins to garner the support of your organization.