Australian Business Leaders Need to Develop a Global Mindset

Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 11:30

Guest post by Gary Martin

In challenging financial times, the need for Australian leaders to have a “global perspective” and develop a “global mindset’’ to support the growth of local business has become more prevalent.

Our research here at the Australian Institute of Management into leadership capability found that Australian leaders achieved a relatively low rating for having an international or global perspective when compared with those leaders in such countries as Singapore, India and Malaysia.

The Australian government White Paper, ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ supported the call for leaders and managers to develop a global mindset. It outlined the need for Australian businesses to deepen their experience and knowledge of Asia to more effectively engage and integrate with Asia.

So what does having a “global mindset” mean and what are the characteristics of leaders who possess a “global mindset”?

A leader with global mindset capability views cultural and geographic difference as potential opportunities. They see that those opportunities can enhance their organisation locally or help it expand within other global locations.

These leaders have a more expansive way of viewing business opportunities, challenges and opportunities which goes beyond their own direct personal experience.

Leaders with a global mindset are open to doing business in a global context and conceiving strategies on an international basis. They understand international markets and world economic trends, and they lead with an in-depth knowledge of cultural, political and economic systems in other countries.

Leaders operating with global mindset capability have a well developed understanding of how their global industries work regardless of whether they sit within the private or public sector. They develop and utilise formal and informal networks on an international basis to gather information to achieve this understanding.

Importantly, these leaders are passionate about diversity and they build and develop culturally diverse leadership teams to succeed in business.

Global mindset capability requires a leader to adjust their approach in different cultural settings, to respect cultural differences and to identify cultural similarities. Leaders with this capability are truly comfortable about being in uncomfortable or unfamiliar contexts.

Having a global mindset also brings with it an obligation for leaders with this capability to develop an international perspective within others.

How do organisations develop global mindset capability amongst their leaders?

Developing a global mindset within leaders takes effort and investment. Leadership development strategies that can be used to develop this capability include:

Cultural awareness programs: Building an understanding of different cultures and providing a solid foundation for development of global mindset capability.

International mentoring networks: Organisations can help to develop a global mindset amongst their leaders by establishing international mentoring programs which benefit both their own leaders and leaders in other worldwide locations.

Guided study tours: Exposing leaders to different cultural and business environments through guided study tours is a great way to immerses leaders in these different environments and learn through firsthand experience.

Exchange programs: Exchange programs and/or internships which provide short term experience within a global organisational environment provides a greater understanding of how organisations operate within a different cultural, political and economic setting.

Gary Martin FAIM is Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Management in Western Australia. He is currently an Emeritus Professor of Murdoch University and Zhejiang University of Technology (Zhejiang Province, China), as well as an Honorary Professor at Guangdong University of Business Studies (Guangdong Province, China).