I was reading a Harvard Business Review article “Join the Global Elite” and admiring the leaders mentioned for their extensive international experience and multi-lingual advantages. I travel quite a bit on business today, England… France… Switzerland…, and did previously when I worked in global marketing for UBS. While the CEO is working with the Board of Directors to set the business goals, the CMO and marketing team are translating those objectives into marketing strategies that work within the context of the brand and how it will be assimilated with local culture. Like any initiative, objectives are going to be measured against changes to purchasing decisions.
I would agree that acquiring a global outlook requires an inquisitive nature and the capacity to absorb and interpret a great deal of information. While it’s understood that international teams will partner to achieve corporate goals, territorial bureaucracy is also an expected obstacle that is not really mentioned in this article. Such obstacles require not only the relationship-building and listening skills, but an advanced level of diplomacy and negotiations. While this article gives a pleasant perspective of a utopic vision where there’s been time allocated to learn language, history and culture – the more likely truth is that leaders are often thrust into a highly competitive global business environment, where hidden stakeholders have a vested interest in their own agendas.
For some of us, this is a world in which we thrive. We create value by assessing the differences in markets and cultures, capitalizing on operational advantages and economics and leveraging the existing network and influencers to find the skills necessary to achieve and maintain brand performance and brand integrity. While we expand our global footprint, we make certain that the global footprint carries impact across all local markets – expanding the corporate culture to be a place of diversity and inclusion. Becoming a “Best Places to Work” company, like I championed at Brinton Eaton Wealth Advisors and J.H. Cohn, helps attract and retain the best talent and creates a culture of excellence.
One of the topics I’m really drawn to in this article is the notion of Global Citizenship. Again, in an ideal world, leaders will not necessarily be defined by national law, but will truly look at what is “the right thing” for the people, the community, the country and the world. I like to consider myself among leaders who look at the sustainability of brand, operations and profitability across geography, gender and generations for ongoing value.
While I think the label, “Global Elite,” sends the wrong message, I do agree that it is “about creating the world they want to live in.” I’m hoping that this will be much more of the ‘norm’ for business leaders rather than a representative handful of ‘elite’.
I find the two most rewarding aspects of my career have been both the 20,000 foot view of international business and rolling up my sleeves to help with local charities. The common threads are: people and incremental changes that accumulate towards making a real difference.