Authors: Ernest Gundling, Terry Hogan and Karen Cvitkovich

Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1904838234, 256 pages


Leading the international operations of worldwide firms or heading a globally dispersed team can be a baffling undertaking. Approaches that work in one country or culture may not work in another, and executives often must overcome tremendous gaps between themselves and the foreign staff they manage. To find out how global team leaders succeed, leadership consultants Ernest Gundling, Karen Cvitkovich, and banker Terry Hogan interviewed 70 executives from 26 countries and from more than a dozen industries, including manufacturing, energy, telecommunications and health care. The authors found that these seasoned leaders share 10 distinctive behaviors, which constitute the basis of this global leadership development plan. getAbstract recommends their comprehensive research and training tactics to HR and leadership development specialists, and to executives who manage global teams or international divisions.

Dealing with different languages, cultures, time zones and rules

Corporate global leadership involves handling multiple national boundaries, different cultures, alternative product lines and other managerial challenges. Running a company’s international operations is far more complex and confusing than managing the same firm’s domestic functions.

Consider the example of Dr. Birgit Masjost, who heads technical development at pharmaceutical giant Roche from the firm’s headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. She is fluent in German, French and English. Her team members are in Switzerland, Japan, Germany and the US. She also works directly with colleagues in China. Masjost’s technical development staffers in Basel are from Italy, France, Germany and the UK. They have diverse professional backgrounds, including pharmacology, chemistry, physiology, biology and marketing. Masjost manages a tossed salad of cultures, nationalities and areas of expertise, and she has to deal with widely varying time zones that impede coordination. Although many team members speak English, communication often breaks down due to linguistic confusion. Each office operates in its own way, which makes coordinating team activities even more complicated.

Masjost and her team members must also bridge international regulatory differences to develop new drugs and get them approved. For team members worldwide to coordinate their activities, they must develop robust working relationships with Masjost as their hub. She relies on face-to-face meetings to organize team activities, often spending a few weeks in each office. Masjost works hard to share new knowledge and best practices across all her international units. Sometimes she invites team members to visit other regional offices. She selects employees in Japan and Switzerland to spend one year working in each other’s locales. And, to promote further cross-pollination, she recruits some of her Chinese colleagues to work full time in Basel.

Three global trends

Three trends compel modern corporations to expand globally:

1. Growth that will triple the Earth’s population by 2050 centers on the developing world.

2. The total GDP of these developing economies will grow to almost twice the combined GDPs of the developed nations by 2025.

3. Asia and Africa are urbanizing rapidly.

In 1900, London was the world’s most populous city with 6.5 million people, followed by New York, Paris and Berlin; Tokyo was the only non-Western urban center then on the largest cities list. By 2015, however, no US or European metropolis will figure in the top 10. Instead, the major population centers will be Mumbai, India; Chongqing, China; and Lagos, Nigeria, with at least 15 million inhabitants each.

Global corporations must serve these new growth markets through on-the-ground facilities, so these companies will need strong leaders to run their international operations. Research indicates 10 specific approaches to international management that successful global leaders employ…

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