Global Leadership Development (Part III): Going Where the Growth Is

Posted on May 9, 2016

Global Leadership Development (Part III): Going Where the Growth Is

Global Leadership Development (Part III): Going Where the Growth Is

By Ernest Gundling, Managing Partner, and David Everhart, President, Aperian Global

Our first blog in this three-part series described how some leadership development programs unintentionally insulate participants from key growth market opportunities and voices. We then went on to discuss the antidote to such protective insulation – the executive version of a full immersion learning journey. In our final post for the series, we look at developing future leaders by going where the growth is.

Rejected by Headquarters

Having just spent a week in Bangalore visiting our local team and meeting with several India-based firms and Western-based multinational companies (MNCs), we were once again struck by the enormous energy and potential of this fast-expanding market. We were also reminded of the growing sophistication of India-based talent managers. Despite the recent, well-publicized slowing of the Chinese economy, overall the Asia-Pacific region is still a primary engine for future economic opportunity for global firms. A lack of sufficient leadership talent remains a central constraining factor.  

We heard this story from the Indian country leader for a major Western MNC:

“We worked hard here in India to identify and develop high potential talent capable of moving into broader leadership roles quickly. Our global organization asked to interview about a dozen of our best Indian high potentials whom we felt were ready for roles within the global structure. The headquarters rejected all of them! They told us none were yet ready for regional or global roles. I have a lot of confidence in our people and was shocked at this total rejection…. I think what they really want is Indians who act like European leaders, not Indians who act like global leaders.”

Common Talent Development Issues

Our view is that organizations badly need talent from growth markets (like India and China) who can “frameshift” — that is, make sense at the global level and also turn around and be effective local leaders, too.

Over the past decade Aperian Global has worked with a number of firms to build customized accelerated development programs to help fill this gap. Not surprisingly, after conducting hundreds of interviews with international executives based in Asia and with local leadership candidates, we have found a pattern of common development issues across a variety of industries. These can be summarized in three main areas:

1. Global Communication Skills: Future leaders must effectively communicate with their global colleagues. This requires strong presentation skills, developing a succinct point of view, and the ability to “think on the fly” and to spontaneously argue/advocate for a course of action. They need to convey the “Voice of the Region” at the global level when building strategy for the business.

2. Influence: Such leaders must also cultivate a global network that can be accessed to obtain resources and support for market-based initiatives, along with the persuasion skills to convince the regional and global organization to support specific projects. Another important influencing skill is knowing how to advocate against global organizational initiatives that do not help the regional/local business (and in some cases might hurt.)

3. Strategic Thinking: This means balancing the need to support the global strategy and doing what is best for the specific region or country market. Future leaders must link their own strategic acumen and the ability to advocate for their point of view with an inspiring vision for action within local/regional teams.

A Framework for Accelerated Development

We have settled on a development framework that focuses on “in role” development supplemented with a multi-module learning program. This structure creates a focused “learning journey” that leads to sustained behavioral change. Our basic “chassis,” now successfully implemented with MNCs from several different industries, is a three-module format, with each module about two to three days in length, and spaced over a nine-month to one-year period. These modules are carefully integrated with multiple, mutually reinforcing learning opportunities, including on-the-job learning, learning through relationships, self-study, and classroom training. All of this occurs in a social context that provides a cohort of fellow leaders and interaction with current executives to further promote accelerated development.


Global Leadership Development (Part III): Going Where the Growth Is

Getting Results: A Strong Pipeline

Within one client, about 300 participants from both Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and Africa have completed this journey through an award-winning program. Most importantly, roughly half have already been promoted into regional leadership roles, creating a strong pipeline of leaders that both reduces the organization’s dependence on expensive expatriate leaders and contributes a “pool” of qualified leaders for the global organization to tap for roles in other parts of the world.

This week we are in Shanghai facilitating the final module of one such program. Two of the executive sponsors in 2016 are alumni of the 2013 program. In just three years these two leaders – one Indian and one Chinese – have moved into globally-visible roles. Both described to us the transformational impact that this accelerated development initiative has had for them. These two agree that their next challenge is persuading their headquarters leadership team to embrace further learning on how to effectively lead non-Westerners and to incorporate more globally diverse participants. Said one, a poised and passionate Chinese woman:

“The next big hurdle is to have our Global Executive Team look like the markets of the future that will provide growth for the next 25 years. If we want to truly be a global firm, five years from now our global leadership should be broadly multicultural, with strong Indian, Chinese, African, South American, and Middle Eastern women and men.”  

See our learning solution, Accelerated Development for High-Potentials in Fast Growth Markets to learn more.

Leading Across Borders

Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts, co-authored by Ernest Gundling, is available through all major outlets. Get your copy!



About The Authors

ernest gundling

Ernest Gundling, PhD is a co-Founder of Aperian Global & currently serves as Managing Partner. Ernest works with clients to develop strategic global approaches to leadership, organization development, and relationships with key business partners. He’s a frequent contributor to many industry publications and has authored several books including the recently published, Leading Across New Borders:  How to Succeed as the Center Shifts.
Connect with Ernie on LinkedIn.

David EverhartDavid Everhart currently serves as President of Aperian Global. David conducts leadership development programs, intercultural management assessments, and executive coaching assignments for American, Asian, African, and European management teams at multi-national firms across multiple industry sectors.
Connect with David on LinkedIn.


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