Scant Progress Seen in Global Leadership Development

July 25, 2014

Despite the growing imperative for organizations to adopt a global mindset, it seems they have made little progress toward that goal during the past year. This was the finding of a new study, “Global Leadership Development: Knowledge Immersion Now,” issued today by American Management Association and i4cp at the SHRM 2014 Annual Conference and Exposition held in Orlando.

The study featured the findings of a survey of more than 1,000 senior business and human resource executives from 57 countries.

While the proportion of firms addressing global leadership grew from 31% in 2010 to 44% in 2014, a majority of organizations still have yet to make an effort to develop a global mindset, according to the survey, which has been conducted yearly since 2010. Even among large employers, just 54% maintain a current focus on global leadership, either as part of a distinct global leadership development program or within a general leadership development curriculum.

At the same time, organizations have grown more critical of their programs’ overall effectiveness, as compared to prior years. In 2010, 42% considered their programs to have been effective, either to a high or very high extent. In 2014, however, that dropped to 19%. Although the “effective” rating was higher among large employers, it was just barely so, at 21%.

Developing leaders with global skills and competencies is about enabling the organization to operate more effectively on a global basis. It’s also about creating a more inclusive culture and equipping leaders to be better at collaborating with, coaching, and influencing employees of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and customs. Global leadership isn’t just the ‘latest trend,’ but something essential for an organization’s future growth and success.

According to Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer for i4cp, the new study identified several elements that promise to improve program effectiveness in a meaningful way. “Companies have to ratchet up efforts to develop leaders with global skills and competencies…preferably within a distinct global leadership development program, but at least by including such curriculum within a general leadership development program.”

The study offers four recommendations:

  1. Focus selection on behaviors, not buddies: Selection of participants in global leadership development programs is best made with objective evidence by those who have observed and documented behaviors related to skills and competencies, as well as the individual’s performance track record and the use of behavioral assessments.
  2. Look longer-term; it pays off: Develop curriculum based on the future-focused skills and competency needs of the business.
  3. Global leaders should be both collaborative and influential: These skills are brought to bear in teaching employees with diverse learning styles and in leading virtual teams.
  4. Global leaders must develop local knowledge: Immersion in the cultures and customs of local markets is essential for creating a global leadership development curriculum, building competencies, and delivering learning.

The good news is that companies now think more broadly about global leadership development and have higher expectations for such programs. Companies worldwide, both public and private, as well as governments, want their employees to master the global skills and competencies needed to work optimally with customers, suppliers, colleagues, and distributors from a wide variety of cultures around the world.

For a copy of the white paper, please email

In its fifth annual survey, AMA Enterprise partnered with the i4cp and Training magazine to track current trends in global leadership development. The study population consisted primarily of senior-level business, human resource, and management professionals and was drawn from AMA and its global affiliates, i4cp’s global survey panel, and subscribers to Training magazine. The survey population was 1,030 with participants from 57 countries. A majority of the organizations represented in the survey are headquartered in North America.

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About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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