Today I traveled to Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia and my alma mater, the Darden School of Business. In fact I am still here sitting in the airport, grounded by blustery grey rain along with many other fellow travelers. Sitting in airports seems a big part of my job these days!
I was here to teach a class of MBA’s about global leadership and tried to get across what I think of as a hard concept to capture. On the one hand, as one of these bright students said, “isn’t global leadership just the same as leadership anywhere?” To me it is more the degree to which you use some skills versus others in the top role in a global organization.
Skills like risk taking, working with a diverse group of colleagues, ability to empower leaders in global field operations, and a willingness to fail come into play much more in a leading a global company or agency like Save the Children than they might in a wholly domestic organization. At the end of the day, the cultures are too diverse, the operations too far away, and the specific pitfalls too complex for the leader to possibly be able to lead in a traditional command and control style.
I also pointed out the need for collaboration and partnerships, the importance of foreign governments to your overseas operations, and the critical nature of community relations in our work at Save the Children as some of the things they might encounter in taking on a global leadership position sometime in their careers.
I was amazed at the diversity of the group of students as well. Unlike when I went to business school here more than a few years ago (!) the number of students from outside the US is now over 30%. – and this class was even more diverse as you might expect.
That will be a real advantage for global companies for the future.
It was an enjoyable morning but now back to the airport counter to see if I can actually get home to CT tonight….