Based on our experience in global leadership development, Compass includes strong “global business knowledge” on its list of key attributes of successful global leaders.
In the rapidly changing worldwide marketplace, business leaders need to expand their business knowledge to global markets, keeping a firm grasp on worldwide economic forces and trends in addition to the specifics of their particular market. So what is “global business savvy” and how do you foster it? This skill includes “connecting the dots” across global and local markets, and assessing the impact of your business decisions on your customers and value creation. Breaking it down a bit, we see successful global business leaders as possessing financial acumen, market orientation and a high level, strategic outlook.
Successful leaders have a comprehensive understanding of what drives profitability and cash flow for their company across global markets. It begins with a deep knowledge of the company’s financial statements and key performance measures, and includes the ability to assess how business decisions will impact value creation. A good understanding of the numbers may seem like it goes without saying, but as Kevin O’Leary ofShark Tank fame said in a recent interview in Improper Bostonian, “… this is the one that actually is the downfall of many that sound so promising initially… if you don’t know the numbers, you’re dead.”
In addition to understanding the internal operation of the business, successful leaders must have a strong market orientation—in other words, a clear view of the external environment. This includes being able to synthesize market and competitive data, and having a deep understanding of the customer’s business objectives, purchasing criteria and value to your company. A basic knowledge of government, legal and HR considerations affecting the market in regions and countries in which the company operates is also required.
Strategic or “Helicopter” Perspective
In many organizations, leaders grow up in specific functional areas or business units and, as a result, are experienced in executing on tactical priorities. Global business leadership requires the ability to shift perspective to the “big picture”. The successful global leader is able to grasp the interdependencies among all functions and divisions, and to understand the short and long-term effects—and trade-offs—of business decisions across the entire organization. Here’s the kicker. Global leaders are constantly taking on new initiatives to improve the overall performance of their business. To successfully transition their strong business acumen, developed over years of experience, to a new opportunity or more global perspective, leaders need to: Use lessons learned from past challenges. Recognize what you don’t know, build your team to supplement your knowledge, and then ask for their help. Keep learning. Success in business, as in life, requires an open mind and the willingness to learn. Attend internal and external conferences, read Business Without Borders by Don DePalma, subscribe to The Economist, and seek out people from other cultures and with different points of view. Provide clear direction. Shark Tank’s O’Leary says that in addition to knowing the numbers, successful entrepreneurs can “articulate their idea in 90 seconds or less” and quickly describe the “roadmap” to success. Global leaders must be able to quickly assess new situations or changes in the marketplace, chart the best way forward, and then clearly articulate that direction across the entire organization. Kit Williams, MBA, is founder and CEO of Compass Consulting, LLC, and combines an extensive business background with a deep understanding of corporate leadership development to offer executive coaching and consulting services that enable high-potential leaders to succeed in fast-paced, global environments.Image courtesy of twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net