Capabilities of Global Leaders

Organizations are finding themselves sending their leaders throughout the world more and more in order to effectively oversee the reaches of their products and services. It is necessary for leaders who are serving in a global context to have the cultural agility necessary to effectively lead people in various cultural contexts (Caligiuri, 2013). Such leaders who possess cultural agility have the ability to quickly, comfortably, and effectively work in different cultures and with people from different cultures (Caligiuri, 2013). It is necessary, though, for global leaders to not only have cultural agility, but to have effective leaders as well.

Global leaders are more than big personalities, or cultural gurus, they are also effective leaders with competencies that allow them to lead toward change. Global leaders are open-minded and flexible in their thoughts and actions; they are able to work in various settings with a variety of people maintaining an open mindset (McCall & Hollenbeck, 2002). Their open-mindedness allows global leaders to respect other cultures, people and points of view, as well as deal with the complexities they encounter due to the cultural diversity (McCall & Hollenbeck, 2002). A vital competency for a global leader is the ability to engender trust cross culturally around the globe by being honest and maintaining a high level of integrity (McCall & Hollenbeck, 2002).

Global leaders need to be able bring together people and resources across national, cultural and even organizational boundaries and craft effective solutions that solve problems quickly (Cabrera & Unruh, 2012). Such leaders are able to be resourceful, optimistic, and energetic in problem solving providing a baseline for those they work with to maintain forward motion despite opposition (McCall & Hollenbeck, 2002).

All of these characteristics, skills, and abilities make powerful global leaders. Outside of cultural adaptability, what is the most challenging to develop as a leader?


Cabrera, A., & Unruh, G. (2012). Being global: how to think, act, and lead in a transformed world. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press.

Caligiuri, P. (2012). Cultural agility: building a pipeline of successful global professionals. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

George, B. (2015). The New Global Leaders. People & Strategy, 38(3), 26–30.

McCall, M. W., & Hollenbeck, G. P. (2002). Developing global executives: the lessons of international experience. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.


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