The Global Leadership Competencies We Aren’t Teaching

78428983Here is an excerpt from an article written by Donna Parrey for Talent Management magazine. Change in the macro business environment moves at lightning speed. What has remained unchanged is the content of many leadership development programs — to global leaders’ detriment. To read the complete article, check out all the resources, and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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The globally connected business environment demands leaders lead across time zones and borders, think creatively, communicate effectively and embrace technology. It is vital that learning organizations offer the right curriculum to address these essential competencies. Yet the content of many global leadership development programs fails to reflect changes in the way business gets done and the competencies required to lead effectively.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity’s 2013 Global Leadership Development Survey, conducted in collaboration with the American Management Association and Training magazine, examined 26 leadership competencies and their inclusion or exclusion in global leadership development programs for 1,200 global participants. (Editor’s note: the author works for i4cp). The survey found that many programs are not keeping pace with what’s most critical. In effect, these programs are not fully preparing participants to excel as leaders in the global environment.

The Missing Links

The survey found that most global leadership development programs address managing change and critical thinking/problem-solving — competences that have topped the list for three consecutive years. But competencies related to technology and creativity/innovation aren’t making the cut, despite the fact that organizations acknowledge their importance. These competencies are:

Comfort and competence with the latest advances in virtual technology: It is necessary for leaders to be fluent in the use of virtual technologies in their daily work lives. Yet, while 54 percent of those surveyed admitted this competency is important, it is absent from their global leadership development programs.

Comfort and competence with social network technology: This appeared on the list of missing competencies for the first time in 2012, and 46 percent of respondents overall included it again in 2013. There was a time when a social media presence was a new concept for an organization, but even if leaders aren’t tweeting, their organizations likely are. The unprecedented growth of social networking applications, platforms and tools underscores the importance of this competency. Absent a formal learning program, organizations may consider tapping into their multigenerational workforce and reverse mentoring to develop social media fluency in their global leaders.

Measurement company Agilent Technologies Inc. recognizes the importance of technological know-how — 40 percent of its U.S.-based employees work remotely. “We’re always seeking to enhance our digital competency,” said Mike Girone, senior director of global learning and leadership development. “We have global teams, with team members in Europe, the Americas and Asia, and we get much of our work done through virtual connections.”

Three years ago, Agilent sought to increase competency and comfort with new technologies among participants via its emerging leaders program. Girone said everyone received an iPad to integrate use of the tool with the curriculum. All of the program’s workbooks were created on iBooks so participants could become comfortable with referencing, highlighting and taking notes using these tools.

When it comes to staying connected, Brian Miller, senior director of learning and development at Gilead Sciences Inc., agreed that it is important to get virtual teaming right. He said focused learning sessions on virtual teaming might include committing to a communications charter, leveraging members in rotating roles and agreeing on informal chat time such as online water cooler conversations.

Miller is not alone in his belief. Michael Killingsworth, vice president of learning and organizational effectiveness at the Upstream Americas division of Royal Dutch Shell, said he has discovered that virtual connections can be as powerful for communication as physical connections, and virtual can act as an open opportunity for rich intercultural learning and exchange. “Advanced competencies like expert thinking, group learning and complex communication are becoming the new survival tools, all of which build the credibility of today’s leaders,” he said.

Global confectioner Mars Inc. relies on technology to facilitate close connections between its 75,000 globally dispersed associates and their line managers. With a highly decentralized structure but a high-touch, high-relationship culture, the firm is “corporate light” with fewer than 150 people in the corporate office, said Andre Martin, the company’s chief learning officer.

Global communication tools used range from SharePoint to Skype to videoconferencing. For instance, Mars’ senior HR team gathers from four locations around the world for an annual weeklong meeting via telepresence. “We want to be as present in China as we are in the U.K.,” Martin said. He said organizations should first prototype collaborative technology in small teams to find out what sticks in their specific culture. “It’s a vital first step.”

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Donna Parrey is a senior research analyst with the Institute for Corporate Productivity, a human capital research firm. She can be reached at

This story originally appeared in Talent Management‘s sister publication, Chief Learning Officer.

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