Smiling Group of ProfessionalsGlobal and diversity leadership have been big buzzwords in the business world, and rightfully so. Ambitious young professionals are becoming multilingual and gain international experiences to become more appealing to future employers; while more seasoned executives look to partner with overseas organizations in order to expand their international business reach.

This article in Harvard Business Review got me to thinking about our UGN team spread across eight plants in different states throughout and outside the country. I thought about the diversity (ethnic, age, gender, religious, etc.) we have and how it enriches the culture of our organization.

Clearly, it is no secret the world IS getting smaller – but being a true global leader goes deeper than just ability to speak a foreign language or spending time overseas.

Global Leadership: Where to Start

First we need to acknowledge diversity and globalization is here to stay. You may need IT support and call from your office in Chicago and the line is picked up by a support engineer located in India.

You may read and comment on a post from a business blogger in London and within hours you have a dozen new British followers on Twitter.

Even large companies are incorporating formal programs into their corporate strategies in order to understand and deepen relationships with their business partners and clients.

Macy’s CEO, Terry J. Lundren describes their diversity approach as:

A business imperative for the company. Reflecting the diverse marketplace we serve is good for our customers, associates, vendors, and shareholders.

But it takes a lot more than just acknowledgement and acceptance. While one person alone cannot fully change the culture of an organization, leaders must set the standard of example.

Skills Every Global Leader Needs

To be a true global leader, there are skills and behaviors we must put into practice and adopt. Kwintessential,  multicultural-training professional service company provided a great list, a few of which I’ll share here with you:

  • Learn about the cultures of people that you work and interact with. Start from scratch and forget your assumptions and stereotypes. There are many free online resources.
  • Try and attend events or occasions where you can submerge yourself in another culture. Use the opportunity to observe how people communicate and interact with one another. If you get the chance to travel abroad do the same when there.
  • Start listening and paying more attention when dealing with someone from another culture. You will be surprised how much you pick up by slowing down. Don’t jump to conclusions and think actions and behaviours through.
  • Ask for help and don’t be afraid to apologise for mistakes. People generally are appreciative that you are trying to understand them.

While it’s not human nature to immediately understand and be sensitive to those who are different to us, taking on an attitude of acceptance, willingness to learn, and understanding, our organizations certainly will be a better place.

And what good and effective leader doesn't want that?

What global and diversity approaches have you applied at your organizations?