Global Leadership: It’s NOT Just “Leadership Plus”

The challenge of developing leaders for success in global roles — many of us have logged countless hours helping global organizations grapple with that thorny issue.

It’s a challenge that grows more intense as time passes. Many organizations, after learning that it’s not possible to recruit enough seasoned leaders from the outside, are stepping up their efforts to develop from within.

In fact, I’m pleased to write from Honolulu where I’m speaking at the annual national conference of the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP) — and where Cambria will unveil a new strategic framework to help organizations meet the global leadership challenges. More about that in a minute.

But first, some perspective and context.

Hats off to all of us who have made multiple attempts over the years to find an effective approach to develop global leadership. We deserve an A+ for doing our doggoned best to make it work.

But we didn’t quite get it right.

I think of the days spent in windowless conference rooms covered in flip chart paper and hundreds of Post-It notes — brainstorming sessions filled with talented instructional designers, adult learning specialists, and SMEs trying to figure this out. And I remember how we would ultimately circle back to the same conclusion: global leadership was about demonstrating all the competencies any effective leader needs, just more of it.

So we would pull together groups of leadership exemplars to study and identify all the behavioral and attitudinal best practices and bake them into expensive leadership programs with multi-modules.

I called this Leadership Plus.

And it’s not that we were wrong. It’s just that this approach is insufficient, particularly for what’s required of global leaders today. Clearly we need a different kind of leadership development.

The breakthrough for me came through the field of adult stage development — a body of work I’ve been fascinated with and studied for many years. It makes a distinction between “horizontal” development (the acquisition and deepening of knowledge and skills, our usual approach) and “vertical’ development (a transformational approach aimed to elevate how a person sees and interacts with the world).

For the global leader, the focus needs to be on vertical development. To that end, my Cambria colleagues and I have developed a new framework that includes five key attributes to do exactly that.

I’m excited about the implications our new framework will have for developing highly adaptive global leaders, teams, and organizations. It’s more important than ever to equip leaders for a world of increasingly complex challenges.

To learn more, please see the white paper that Cambria has just released: Beyond Borders: Developing Globally Adaptive Leaders.

We’re very excited about this work and what it offers for global organizations. And stay tuned: we’re working on a self- assessment to accompany this work.

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