Source: Forbes/ Entrepreneurs
Nowhere is the dearth of leadership felt more strongly than in those organizations expanding their global reach. In a recent study, my colleague Jack Zenger and I found that one-third of global organizations have identified “global leadership” as a serious constraint. We’ll define global leadership as those individuals who work in more than one cultural or geographic arena. They are distinguished by their willingness to leave their country of origin and take on new assignments that may require using a new language or adapting to a new culture. Consequently, 70% of larger organizations have plans to increase their overseas assignments. Yet, ironically, less than a third of these organizations have any formal leadership development process in place.
As a result, many organizations have few candidates for overseas assignments, no information about those in the firm who aspire to such opportunities, no clear understanding of the competencies required for such assignments, and little interest being expressed by younger internal managers in becoming global leaders.
We looked closely at one company whose future is tied to its ability to quickly expand internationally. In our study, we assessed the effectiveness and importance of Global Perspective against other leadership competencies, and we looked at the difference between the senior management team and their next level direct reports who were next in line for promotion. For the senior team, Global Perspective was rated as the 5th most important competency. The effectiveness of this senior management team on Global Perspective was at the 89 percentile.
We then looked at the results for the next level of management in terms of the importance of Global Perspective. The competency was ranked number 11, with 21% of raters indicating in was one of the top four most critical skills. The average effectiveness of these leaders on Global Perspective was rated at the 46th percentile. In terms of relative importance, Strategic perspective was ranked number one and “Drives for results” was ranked number two. There is no doubt that having leaders with a Global Perspective is a key competency in this organization, but the message for these leaders seemed to be that creating a clear strategy and executing in your current assignment are most important, while improving Global Perspective is well down on the list. What these leaders may not realize is that in order to be promoted to the next level, having a Global Perspective is an absolute necessity.
In a recent Harvard Business Review blog, we revealed research from our global database of approximately 500,000 reports on roughly 50,000 leaders that the average starting age for entrants in company-sponsored leadership development programs is 42. Given the added complexity of preparation for overseas assignments, particularly with the demands of navigating a different language and culture, we think there is strong need for leadership development to be starting much earlier in a leader’s career.
On average, supervisors are 33 years of age (which means that many are younger than 33) but less than 10% receive training below the age of 30, and less than 1/4th of leaders receive training prior to age 35. This suggests that more than three-quarters of managers receive no formal training for their first position. They make mistakes that they could have avoided. They establish bad habits that need never have begun.
The unique challenges of developing global leaders argue strongly for getting the development started earlier in people’s careers. Let’s not wait until leaders are in their forties to begin the deliberate, planned development process they require.