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LEADING GLOBAL TEAMS Stéphane Ganassali – Université Savoie Mont-Blanc – sgana@unv-smb.fr Justyna Matysiewicz – University of Economics in Katowice - justyna.matysiewicz@uekat.pl

Introduction Global teams that are characterised by national, cultural and linguistic heterogeneity and operate in a globally dispersed virtual environment are becoming an important form of organizing work in multinational organisations (Zander et al., 2012). It is recognised (Hajro and Pudelko, 2010) that effective team leadership turned out to be one of the most important factors enabling the effective functioning of multinational teams (MNTs). At the turn of the century, Morrison (2000) was already stating that with the increased globalisation of competition over the past two decades, the world has an ever-greater need for global leaders.

1. What is global leadership? Global leadership is a key human resource issue in leadership development, but existing knowledge is rather limited. It is highly connected with globalisation phenomenon which results from the removal of barriers between national economies to encourage the flow of goods, services, capital, and labour. While the lowering or removal of tariffs and quotas that restrict free and open trade among nations has helped globalise the world economy, transportation and communication technologies have had the strongest impact on accelerating the pace of globalisation. The process as continues to affect organisations at different levels. These calls for a corresponding shift in global leadership paradigms (Hassanzadeh et al. 2015). Strategic leaders in organisations require a more diverse repertoire of attributes to effectively confront emerging global challenges such as free flow of capital and labour, changing technologies and cultural dynamics. A diverse environment provides opportunity about critical understanding of differences which can improve the corporate culture (Popescu, 2013). In the literature it is possible to find many definitions of global leadership. According to Beechler & Javidan (2007) global leadership is the process of influencing individuals, groups,


and organisations (inside and outside the boundaries of the global organisation) representing diverse cultural/political/institutional systems to contribute towards the achievement of global organisation’s goals. Reiche et al. (2016) define global leadership as the processes and actions through which an individual would influence a range of internal and external constituents from multiple national cultures and jurisdictions in a context characterised by significant levels of task and relationship complexity. According to the context they face, global leaders may have different roles. Reiche et al. (2016) defined four situations based on the task complexity on one hand (variety and flux) and on the relationship complexity on the other hand (number and variations of boundaries, interdependence). From the least to the most challenging situation, global leadership may be incremental, operational, connective or integrative.

Table 1 - Typology of four global leadership roles by Reiche et al. (2016)

2. The challenges of global leadership It is admitted in the literature that global leadership is more challenging than regular local (or national) leadership. Cross cultural competence is basically related to the command of


foreign languages and in Europe, the common language for project management is naturally English. Even if that language is globally well spoken in Europe, there are some important differences among the continental countries. Notably, three of the continent’s largest economies – being Spain, Italy, and France - have persistent English skill deficiencies, while countries in northern Europe (like Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark or Finland) occupy six of the top ten positions in the English Proficiency Index recently published by the training company Education First (2018). As stated in the definition, global leadership also may cover a good knowledge and experience about international law. It means that those leaders ideally need to master some international or continental common regulations (like European Union law as the system of laws operating within the member states of the European Union for ex.) as well as some national legislative specificities being into force in the related countries. Apart from the possible linguistic or regulatory issues, the first reason is related of course to the challenge of considering all the possible cultural differences in the group, in reference to a certain number of key questions like: what do we expect from the leader? What should be the level of autonomy given to project members? What are the criteria of successful project management? Etc. Based on the literature (see Brodbeck et al., 2000 for example), on the first question, we could expect for example some significant differences in the importance given to “interpersonal directness and proximity” as an important outstanding leadership attribute, between Nordic countries (where it is expected to be strong) and Central European countries (weak level expected). The same applies to given autonomy. According to the same study, leadership attributes of “autonomy” are more strongly associated with outstanding leadership in Germanic countries than in Latin European countries. On the third issue about successful project management, we could also expect some variations in the way the project monitoring should be formalised and deadlines strictly respected. For example, Müller et al. (2009) show that Swedish teams prefer pragmatic and transparent decision making, based on open communication. German teams prefer a more formal decision-making style, based on formal authority and clear roles. Example: In the takeover of Rover Motor Company by BMW, the mixture of a German emphasis on formal structure, hierarchy, and engineering precision with British traditionalism, charm, and elegance created a number of organisational difficulties (for example, severe disagreements concerning marketing strategies for Rover automobiles) that eventually resulted in the resignation of Rover CEO John Tower. Despite various assurances


that the new CEO would be British, BMW chose to replace Tower with a German engineer from BMW's board. In commenting on his decision to withdraw from Rover, Tower suggested that strong "guidance" from BMW was inconsistent with Rover's style of low-key leadership. Source: Earley and Mosakowski (2000). In accordance with global trends of multinational organisations management, more and more global teams are composed for specific projects like for example Horizon 2020 research projects (see Primefish http://www.primefish.eu/ for example), multinational medical projects like in the European Society of Cardiology, or big industrial projects like in the automotive or aeronautics industries. Another characteristic of those contemporary global teams is that they very often have to work virtually, through video conference and team collaboration platforms. There is an increasing number of geographically distributed project teams working within matrix organisations, and it is assumed that their work is very difficult (Oertig and Buergi, 2006). That means that those teams are created for a limited and relatively short time (2 to 4 years) and that they would not necessarily meet very often face to face. In that general context, it is more difficult to foster the group's cohesion and trust, to develop a common team working culture, and to set up an optimal communication flow. Ideally, apart from the linguistic, law and cross-cultural competencies, those international group members should also be familiar with virtual-teams projects operations. As a consequence, the recruitment profile for such projects is getting extremely tight.

3. How to achieve effective global leadership? According to the revised definitions, global leadership can be interpreted in various ways (Hassanzadeh et al. 2015):  it means diversity: diverse employees, systems and operations, multiple crossboundary stakeholders, different geographies and different cultures,  it means complexity: uncertainty and ambiguity,  it means working on the global stage: international job scope, global responsibilities, global competition and necessity of world-class performance,  it means flexibility: change ways to one situation or country to another,  it means global mindset: being able to articulate a globally encompassing vision and to communicate that vision to people around the world, we will go more into details in the section 4,


 it means networking: working together towards a common vision and common goal for the global community; Based on the Centre for Talent Innovation (CTI) research, four competencies were identified, that rising talents need to master to become global leaders (Hewlett, 2016):  Project credibility: global leaders must master a pivot to project credibility, demonstrating authority in a form familiar to senior executives, while prioritizing emotional intelligence with stakeholders in local and global markets,  Be inclusive: driving value by unleashing ideas, spurring collaboration, and solving problems across distance and difference requires shifting management methods from command-and-control to behaving inclusively,  Communicate effectively (even virtually): global leaders need to know how to communicate, not just with their teams but with global headquarters as well,  Win sponsorship: navigating global complexities can be nearly impossible for rising leaders without the support and guidance of a sponsor, a senior-level advocate who will support their protégé’s authority and empower them to make decisions. Some academic works have tried to define the ideal profile of the perfect multinational team leader. After a popular study conducted by Hajro and Pudelko (2010), from 70 problemcentred interviews with MNT leaders and members from five multinational corporations, those leaders’ requested competencies are: knowledge management and transfer, crosscultural awareness, motivation, goal setting, decision-making, selection of team members, delegation of tasks, monitoring, knowledge of foreign languages, coordination and transfer of headquarters corporate culture. Example: Formal training programs can teach high-potential leaders the competencies they need to think globally and manage cross-culturally. For example, American Express created its Accelerated Leadership Development program. Over the course of the six-month program, all participants from American Express offices around the world tackle real-time business challenges to refine their strategic skill set, practice cross-functional collaboration, and learn what it takes to be a transformational leader in today’s ever-changing environment.

4. Approaches and tools for global teams’ management


One of the most relevant possible response to the different managerial expectations in a multicultural team, is the concept of “switch leadership” presented by Prabhakar (2005). It is defined as the “skill of changing leadership styles from one to another in order to increase project performance” in some multicultural and multidisciplinary settings. Based on a study of 153 projects across 28 countries, Prabhakar proves that by the project manager switching his or her leadership style from autocratic and task oriented to more consultative and people centred, projects achieve higher performance levels. Furthermore, there appears to be a correlation between “transformational leadership” and the success of the project, where the leader is a constructive and encouraging member of the project team and respectful towards individuals. Transformational leaders develop relationships with the project team members by the use of interactive contacts and creating cultural connection to achieve set goals. “Global mindset” is also considered as a key element to successful global leadership (Beechler and Javidan, 2007). Global mindset is the stock of (1) knowledge, (2) cognitive, and (3) psychological attributes that enable a global leader to influence individuals, groups, and organisations (inside and outside the boundaries of the global organisation) representing diverse cultural/political/institutional systems to contribute toward the achievement of the global organisation’s goals. For the global firm, the key advantages of a global mindset (Govindarajan and Gupta, 2001) are mainly the following: 

Getting an “early mover” advantage in identifying emerging opportunities,

Developing a greater sophistication and more fine-grained analysis as the trade-off between local adaptation and global standardisation,

Implementing a smoother coordination across complementary functional activities distributed across the different countries,

Getting a faster rollout of new product concepts and technologies,

Experiencing a more rapid and efficient sharing of best practices across subsidiaries

The components of global mindset are the three intellectual, psychological and social capitals. Global leaders with high stocks of intellectual capital are capable of understanding the complex global industry in which they are operating. They are aware of differing competitors and competitive strategies, of divergent economic and political systems, and are able to identify business opportunities in different parts of the world. They understand the complexities of a global organisation and the natural tensions existing between global and


local requirements. They are cognitively complex individuals who are able to understand multiple perspectives on how to define and address global opportunities and challenges. While they understand that their global context is complex, they are not paralysed by it. Finally, they have strong cultural intelligence, which includes cultural self-awareness, understanding cross-cultural differences as well as other’s histories, and knowledge of other languages. The global psychological capital consists of a positive psychological profile including cosmopolitanism and passion for cross-cultural encounters. Some of the elements of positive psychological capital (e.g., self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency) are psychological states that can be enhanced, but some of the other elements (e.g., openness and curiosity) may be deeper psychological traits and attributes and thus are not as easily changeable. There are three types of social capital: cognitive, relational, and structural. Cognitive social capital refers to shared norms, values, attitudes and beliefs. Relational social capital includes assets that are derived from interactions with others in the network. It is the capability that arises from the prevalence of trust in a society or in certain parts of it. Structural capital is based on the position an individual occupies in a network and the contacts that he/she enjoys that provide him/her with access to information or other benefits.

5. Drivers and barriers for developing global leadership While some aspects of global mindset are genetic (cognitive complexity is largely determined at birth, for example), individuals and organisations can develop global psychological, intellectual, and social capital in a variety of ways (Beechler and Javidan, 2007), by for example: 

recruiting from diverse sources worldwide,

designing cross-border teams and projects: staffing teams with members from diverse countries, backgrounds and functional specialties helps members appreciate and understand multiple perspectives on challenges and opportunities faced by the firm and provide valuable practice fields,

establishing cross-national communities of practice or knowledge networks,

having diverse locations for meetings and holding global meetings,


encouraging foreign experience and expatriation: the career path should provide for recurring local and global assignments and should alternate between local, global, local, and again global assignments,

Ensuring the assessment of leaders’ global mindset.

Example: SmithKline Beecham follows a policy that requires candidates for senior management positions to have a ‘‘2+2+2’’ experience, i.e., hands-on experience in two businesses, in two functions, and in two countries. With each new assignment these managers broaden their perspectives and establish informal networks of contacts and relationships. But still, given the importance of having a pool of global leadership talents, the number of companies that give it a low priority is surprising (Conger, 2014). According to the same author, the most significant barrier is the little value or reward placed on global mobility. For example, to succeed over one’s leadership career in a corporation, there may be no requirements for international assignments. Additionally, while the importance of global leaders may be publicised by organisations, companies consistently fail to integrate that concept into their organisational talent management systems. More significantly, few companies have performance management systems that are effectively integrated with the global leadership competencies. A final barrier can be found with the leadership talent itself. Deciding to be a global leader involves the headaches of expatriation and the impacts on the family life etc. Though there may be many leaders who have the potential to be good global leaders, the number of individuals who are finally willing to take up the challenges and responsibilities of being a global leader is relatively low…

References Beechler, S., & Javidan, M. (2007). Leading with a Global Mindset. Advances in International Management, 19, 131-169. Brodbeck, F. C. et al. (2000). Cultural variation of leadership prototypes across 22 European countries. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 73, 1-29. Conger, J. A. (2014). Addressing the organizational barriers to developing global leadership talent. Organizational Dynamics, 43, 198-204.


Earley, P. C. & Mosakowski, E. (2000), Creating Hybrid Team Cultures: An Empirical Test of Transnational Team Functioning, The Academy of Management Journal, 43(1), 2649. Education First (2018), EF English Proficiency Index, accessed online on January 5th 2019, at https://www.ef.co.uk/__/~/media/centralefcom/epi/downloads/full-reports/v8/ef-epi2018-english.pdf. Govindarajan, V. & Gupta, A. K. (2001). The quest for global dominance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Hajro, A. & Pudelko, M. (2010). An analysis of core-competences of successful multinational team leaders. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 10(2), 175-194. Hassanzadeh, M, Silong, A. D., Asmuni, A. & Wahat, N. W. A. (2015). Developing Effective Global Leadership. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 5(3): 15-24. Hewlett, S. A. (2016), The Attributes of an Effective Global Leader, Harvard Business Review, accessed online on January 5th 2019, at https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-attributesof-an-effective-global-leader. Morrison, A. J. (2000). Developing a global leadership model. Human Resource Management, 39(2&3), 117-131. MĂźller, R., Spang, K., & Ozcan, S. (2009). Cultural differences in decision making in project teams. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 2(1), 70-93. Oertig, M. & Buergi, T. (2006). The challenges of managing cross-cultural virtual project teams. Team Performance Management, 12(1/2), 23-30. Popescu, G. H., (2013). Macroeconomics, effective leadership, and global business environment. Contemporary Reading in Law and Social Justice, 5(2), 170-176. Prabhakar, G. P. (2005). Switch leadership in projects: An empirical study reflecting the importance of transformational leadership on project success across twenty-eight nations. Project Management Journal, 36, 53-60. Reiche, B. S., Bird, A., Mendenhall, M. E. & Osland, J. S. (2016). Contextualizing leadership: a typology of global leadership roles. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(5), 552-572.


Zander, L., Mockaitis, A. I. & Butler, C. L. (2012), Leading global teams. Journal of World Business, 47, 592-603.

Profile for Prominence Project

2.3 Leading Global Teams (chapter)  

2.3 Leading Global Teams (chapter)  

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