l Meiland old workforce, is striking. Training becomes a different proposition when you cannot rely on tacit knowledge transfer from seasoned 50 year olds to greener 30 year olds. Mexico might require a more intense training regimen or a longer time commitment. Running a global company also means learning how different countries are governed and being able to work with their leaders. This is particularly true for a manufacturer like Flextronics, because most countries, whether developing or developed, tend to want the manufacturing jobs we have to offer. As a consequence, we must be in frequent contact with senior government officials, addressing issues like tax holidays and dollars for training. Consider an issue that the head of our European operation is currently dealing with. A few years back, the Hungarian government agreed to give us a ten-year tax holiday as the result of a $50 million capital investment there. The problem is, Hungary is now trying to gain admittance to the European Union, which won’t allow such tax holidays. What will we do about this? It will get worked out, but it’s complicated. The head of European operations has to have the skills to deal with such high-level political issues—skills that don’t develop in people automatically. How do we choose leaders with the cultural breadth to conduct such negotiations—and to get past the kind of stereotypes I discussed earlier? The most capable executives I’ve known have traveled extensively, learned other languages, and have often been educated abroad. But most of them gained their broad perspectives in the course of their work. Flextronics’ top management team orchestrates manufacturing activity in 28 different countries and leads sales operations worldwide. The peer group includes a CFO from New Zealand, a CTO from Grenada, a sales executive from Ireland, and business unit heads from Sweden, Great Britain, India, Singapore, and Hong Kong. It’s hard to work in such an environment and remain provincial in your outlook. Increasingly, though, we are seeing that our more junior executives have this kind of multicultural exposure as part of their upbringing. Today’s 30 year olds grew up in a different world from their parents’, with much greater ease of travel, more education abroad, and technologies like the Internet and cell phones affording more lines of global communication. Dream résumés that show, say, an upbringing Daniel Meiland Executive Chairman, Egon Zehnder International The world is getting smaller, and markets are getting bigger. In my more than 25 years in the executive search profession, we’ve always talked about the global executive, but the need to find managers who can be effective in many different settings is growing ever more urgent. In addition to looking for intelligence, specific skills, and technical insights, companies are also looking for executives who are comfortable on the world stage. And yet we have a lot to learn. Over the years, about half of our big searches have been for people with truly international experience, but in only a small fraction of those cases did we end up hiring foreigners to the country where an organization was based. Many companies haven’t been all that successful at developing global executives from within either. The intentions are good, but the fact is, practice hasn’t caught up with intent. One problem is that many companies still believe the best way to help managers develop a global mind-set is to put them in positions in other countries. But that hasn’t been very effective, primarily because companies station people abroad and then forget about them. If anything, advancement is even more difficult for the expat when he returns to headquarters, having missed out on opportunities to network with top management. Also, many people have reasons for not wanting to hop from location to page 6 of 8 location. For one, it’s easier to develop client relationships if you stay in one place for an extended period of time. Those client relationships can be very important when it comes to getting promoted. The companies that do handle these rotations well—Shell and General Electric come to mind—track their people carefully over the course of many years. GE has systems for examining people’s work histories and designing their next steps toward becoming global leaders. And Shell has done a particularly good job of giving people not only major responsibilities abroad but also great opportunities for advancement when they return. Another example is McKinsey consulting, which in 1994 elected Rajat Gupta as the first non-American to run the firm. Gupta is a truly global executive and has shown a great deal of cultural sensitivity. Cultural sensitivity doesn’t always come naturally, so developing global executives often requires helping people to see their own biases. Many years ago, when I first started at Egon Zehnder International, I was working on an assignment in the greater China area, and I criticized a team member directly for the way he handled a project. I was told later that in China it’s not good to criticize someone face-to-face; it ends up being counterproductive, and there are other ways to get the message across. This is fairly common knowledge today, but back then it was not. The feedback I got was critical to developing my own cultural sensitivity. But while you need to be aware and accepting of cultural norms, you also need to remember that people are pretty much the same everywhere. The respect you must show for different cultures isn’t all that different from the respect you must show to people in your harvard business review • august 2003 own culture. The executive who truly respects his employees and peers as human beings will always win. Find reasons to praise performance and to show a real interest in your employees— not just when and where it matters to you personally, say, at headquarters, but with everyone, at every level. And you should always be genuine. Developing a global mind-set and learning about other cultures are important for your career, of course, but they’re also enriching on a very personal level. We all need to experience other cultures and ideas to grow as individuals. And to some degree, that individual growth intertwines with the professional. An American, the new CEO of Zurich Financial brought with him a true and very personal love of various cultures. And he came from a very different industry—consulting and auditing. Put together, his diverse personal and professional experiences have given him unique and insightful perspectives on the company’s challenges. We’re living in a special time, with our minds on war and terrorism, and we’re losing sight of the reality of globalization. But we should pay attention, because national barriers are quickly coming down. If you look ahead five to ten years, the people with the top jobs in large corporations, even in the United States, will be those who have lived in several cultures and who can converse in at least two languages. Most CEOs will have had true global exposure, and their companies will be all the stronger for it. Reprint R0308B To order, see the next page or call 800-988-0886 or 617-783-7500 or go to www.hbr.org page 7 of 8 Authorized for use only by Zaid Khartabil in BUAD 301-26 at California State University – Fullerton from 1/24/2022 to 5/18/2022. Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation. P ERSPECTIVES • In Search of Global Leaders Further Reading This article is from the HBR special issue, Leadership in a Changed World. Additional articles from this August 2003 issue include: Trouble in Paradise Katherine Xin and Vladimir Pucik Product no. R0308A Authorized for use only by Zaid Khartabil in BUAD 301-26 at California State University – Fullerton from 1/24/2022 to 5/18/2022. Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation. Harvard Business Review OnPoint articles enhance the full-text article with a summary of its key points and a selection of its company examples to help you quickly absorb and apply the concepts. Harvard Business Review OnPoint collections include three OnPoint articles and an overview comparing the various perspectives on a specific topic. Microcapitalism and the Megacorporation Debra Dunn and Keith Yamashita Product no. R0308C Abraham Lincoln and the Global Economy Robert D. Hormats Product no. R0308D The New World Disorder Nicolas Checa, John Maguire, and Jonathan Barney Product no. R0308E To Order For reprints, Harvard Business Review OnPoint orders, and subscriptions to Harvard Business Review: Call 800-988-0886 or 617-783-7500. Go to www.hbr.org For customized and quantity orders of reprints and Harvard Business Review OnPoint pr
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