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Global Leadership Lesson #3: Exemplary Global Leaders Are Team Players

Posted Oct 22 2008 9:30pm

There was an article a couple weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal reporting that successful CEOs were more tough-minded than some studies have found. "We found that 'hard' skills, which are all about getting things done, were paramount," says lead author Steven Kaplan, a professor of finance and entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago. "Soft skills centering on teamwork weren't as pivotal. That was a bit of a surprise to us." That is a BIG surprise to us, and it is not at all consistent with our research, nor is it consistent with the findings of Project GLOBE involving 170 researchers studying 17,000 managers in 62 countries. We and they have found just the opposite. Exemplary global leaders are unequivocally team-oriented, collaborative, and participative in their practice of leadership.

After reviewing thousands of personal-best cases, we developed a simple test to detect whether someone is on the road to becoming a leader. That test is the frequency of the use of the word we. In our interviews, we found that people used we nearly three times more often than I in explaining their personal- best leadership experiences. Leaders foster collaboration and build trust. This sense of teamwork goes far beyond a few direct reports or close confidants. They engage all those who must make the project work—and in some way, all who must live with the results. In today’s virtual organizations, cooperation can’t be restricted to a small group of loyalists; it must include peers, managers, customers and clients, suppliers, citizens—all those who have a stake in the vision.

In fairness to Kaplan and his colleagues at the ghSmart company— an executive assessment company that collected the data Kaplan analyzed—the executives they studied were mostly buy-out company CEOs who were restoring financial health to failing enterprises or preparing companies for sale. In those instances, it may be that more hard-nosed bosses are needed, but data on successful global leaders tells a very different story. What may apply to buy-out companies is not likely to work when we’re talking about people from diverse cultures who must learn to work collaboratively across national borders in order to get extraordinary things done. In these instances, and in most others, leaders who foster collaboration and strengthen others are the ones who will succeed.

Posted by Jim Kouzes

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