Globalization: The Leadership Difference

How rapidly is the global economy changing? A telecommunications CEO from Brazil predicted “The services that account for 80 percent of our revenue today will only be our second-largest source of revenue in five years.”

The world’s private and public sector leaders believe that rapidly escalating complexity is the biggest challenge confronting them. They are equally clear that their organizations are not equipped to cope effectively with this complexity in the global business environment.

Yet one set of CEO’s and organizations have consistently performed well. How do these “Stand Outs” mitigate complexity and even convert it into opportunity?

According to IBM’s most recent CEO Study, CEO’s and their corresponding organizations that stand out have these (3) characteristics in common …

  • Embody Creative Leadership. Creative business leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation. To succeed, they take more calculated risks, find new ideas and approaches, and keep innovating in how they lead and communicate.
  • Reinvent Customer Relationships. Industry leaders are adopting new channels to stay engaged with customers and obtain their insight, and are making “getting connected” to customers their highest priority.
  • Build Operating Dexterity. Successful CEO’s master the complexity of globalization by redesigning operating strategies for speed and flexibility.


Differentiation is not sustainable; you must continually reevaluate, adapt and evolve. Whether your business is local, regional or global, the ‘New World’ competencies that every business leader must possess to be effective in this era of complexity include the following:

1.     Creativity. The IBM CEO Study identified creativity as the single most important leadership competency for companies seeking a path through complexity.

2.     Capacity to think globally, respond locally and operate “glocally”. Leaders are out of the box thinkers adept at strategy, market planning, business modeling and above all, value creation.

3.     Be accomplished at building global business relationships with customers, suppliers, strategic partners and competitors, both virtual and physical.

4.     Must be technology savvy from a business application, innovation and new media (i.e. Social Media) standpoint, and view technology as both an enabler and a strategic business resource.

5.     Demonstrate the ability to “take a hit” and keep moving forward. Business leaders who stand out must be agile, flexible, adaptable, patient and resilient in order to effectively respond to ever-changing market conditions and growing business demands.

6.     Renewed sense of urgency. John Spence, the author of Awesomely Simple, refers to the term “multiply the speed of your brain” to describe the focus and urgency that is essential to making quality leadership decisions in real-time.

To prepare your business for a future that is truly bright, you need to stay ahead of the rapid changes impacting your marketplace. Ultimately, the leadership difference lies in your ability to create, innovate, develop new business relationships and deliver greater value to customers than the competition, while managing complexity more effectively.

WHAT TO DO NEXT? We’ll cover the next steps to consider in the final installment of the Globalization: The Leadership Challenge Ahead blog series in the next couple weeks.

In the meantime, please let me know what you think are the Top 3 leadership skills required to manage rapidly escalating complexity in the global economy.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 John Carroll