As discussed in my previous post, today's global leaders have three common characteristics. The first of these is a global mindset. Global mindset can be defined as the ability to perceive and decode behaviors in multiple cultural contexts. It is an ability to connect with people from other cultures on an intellectual as well as emotional level. Culture dictates the way we dress, the food we eat, the language we speak, and the stories we tell. Global mindset is thus the capacity to appreciate the differences among cultures and bridge the interfaces between them. Leaders who possess a global mindset are able to view situations from a variety of perspectives, develop trusting relationships with individuals from different contexts, and identify promising routes to successful collaboration.
Developing a global mindset does not come free, however. It is something that has to be actively pursued. Take the example of Lalit Ahuja, president of Target India. Ahuja began his career as an international manager setting up Indian operations for both LG Electronics and News Corporation. He was later recruited by Target to establish a second corporate headquarters in India. Instead of immediately organizing the Indian operation, Ahuja took a different approach and spent his first six months living in the U.S. and working at Target's headquarters in Minneapolis. Ahuja knew that his success would depend on understanding not only the local Indian context but also the Midwest American culture in which Target was founded and the unique corporate culture of the company itself. He also knew he would need contacts and friends in Target that he could rely on.
Ahuja's personal development is typical of the effort needed to obtain a global mindset. While some backgrounds and personality traits can predispose certain lucky people, a global mindset needs to be constantly developed through intentional study, first-hand experience, and assembling networks of friends and contacts in different parts of the world. Doing so fosters an ability to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds, a skill that proves invaluable when pursuing global business opportunities.
Smart international corporations are beginning to understand the importance of developing global mindsets within their ranks. Ahuja, for example, trains his managers using the same approach he followed himself, sending them for extended periods to globally diverse Target locations. To do so, he established an "exchange" program that allows employees to flex their global muscles and develop the mindset needed to engage effectively in Target's increasingly global enterprise. To learn more about global mindset, see the new book "Being Global: How to Think, Act and Lead in a Transformed World" published by Harvard Business Review Press.
In the next post we will explore another facet of today's global leaders: global entrepreneurship.