What Does It Take to Be a Global Executive?

Posted 04.02.2010

Globa1Earlier this week, I received a study on Developing the Global Executive from Jeff Del Rossa a new friend of mine at Development Dimensions International (DDI). The study was authored by some colleagues of Jeff’s at DDI along with two other good friends, Scott Saslow and Nancy Thomas of the Institute of Executive Development (IED).I looked through the study with interest last night as one of the focal points for the second edition of The Next Level is to broaden the global executive perspective of the book through new interviews with leaders who have significant international experience. As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, Listen and They Will Talk, one of the big themes that has come through in those interviews is the importance of listening skills to leadership success in a global environment.

There are some results in the DDI/IED study that seem to line up with the conclusion I’m drawing from my interviews. The study authors surveyed a wide range of global executives and development professionals who support them. One of the questions in the survey was, “What unique skills make for an exceptional global executive?” Here are the five skills that the global executives themselves think are most important:

  • Ability to influence or motivate people from different cultures
  • Resourcefulness to get things done in an unfamiliar situation
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Openness to feedback and change
  • Intercultural communication skills

When you think about it, listening is more or less a foundational behavior for each of these top five skills.   To really make the connection, I think it’s important to break listening down into some of its higher order components. For instance, the ability to influence or motivate people from different cultures requires questioning and observational skills to learn and understand what the motivators are in a particular culture.  Good listeners are typically good questioners and observers. The same principal applies to resourcefulness. Good listeners are generally more resourceful because they’re not afraid to ask for advice and ideas.

Speaking of asking questions, what do you think? When you scan this list of the top five global executive skills, what other core behaviors do you think underlie them?