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The role of a global leader has a particular complexity, one that is categorically different from the complexity faced by domestic and even regional leaders.

To be an effective global leader, you must be able to operate amid myriad challenges. The research and experience of CCL shows that the leap from being a successful manager in your home country to a global leader is a big one. Previously successful strategies and preferred ways of leading may not translate well in a global setting.

The rules of engagement understood by one group or culture may not be relevant to another. This creates an environment of multiple complexities.

Here are 6 of the challenges leaders face when working in a global environment:

  1. Handling culture conflicts. Global leaders work across multiple cultural groups simultaneously. They face situations or incidents in which priorities or values may conflict. Sometimes the cultural conflict is glaring; more likely, the differences are subtle and easy to miss.
  2. Adapting your own behaviors. Cultural assumptions and behaviors play a role in a leader’s identity, too. Global leaders need to be highly aware of the influence of culture on their own thinking – and then have ability to go beyond that. They cannot limit choices and actions to reflect only their culture. Leaders need to be skilled at accurately reading people and situations and then adjusting their behaviors accordingly.
  3. Creating shared goals and implementing shared work. Leaders in global organizations need to find ways to find common ground while honoring differences. Global leaders must be able to understand and appreciate other cultural perspectives, while at the same time creating alignment around the work and the mission.
  4. Managing the relationship between corporate and local. A significant challenge for global leaders is to understand and manage the tensions between organizational headquarters and regional or local offices. When do local needs, customs, regulations, practices or markets drive decisions? How do corporate-level expectations get infused at the local level? And how can leaders navigate the constant duality?
  5. Communicating across barriers. Communication can be a challenge in any setting; it is more complex and even more essential to communicate effectively when you are operating from a distance. Effective global leaders learn to overcome geographic, culture and language barriers.
  6. Understanding and managing external forces. Doing business globally requires leaders to learn the governmental, legal, historical and economic factors that influence their work. External forces impact the way organizations operate, and often, leaders must accept that these factors are outside of their control.

Leaders can’t be prepared for every situation, every cultural setting, every challenge. But to be effective outside of familiar settings, global leaders do need to think and act in new ways.

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