A Global Mindset: A Must-have For Any Global Leaders

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In the past decades, companies have shifted their perspective on competition. The true value of a business now no longer lies in what it creates, but what it can potentially create. Business owners, managers, and corporate leaders look within and develop a mindset that will ultimately translate into efficiency and profitability.

That is when the concept of “global mindset” was developed.

As the name suggests, a “global mindset” tells people to think globally and internationally when doing business. In this day and age, there’s no way you can resist the power of globalization. You can only adapt to it. The “global mindset” is the result of the ever-increasing complexity of the business environment in any country around the world.

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Once a company enters the global arena, all of the daily business tasks that they’re so familiar with have to undergo tremendous changes to meet the strict requirements of the global business environment. Only by having a strong global mindset can the manager ensure their company’s global success and maintain their competitiveness.

But there’s a problem.

The problem is that there are not many people who know what a truly global mindset is.

Many attempts have been made to create a comprehensive definition of the term, yet there are still so many confusions and inconsistencies among the proposed definitions.

How we can practically apply those definitions to an organization, and how we can effectively foster that mindset in the managers, are 2 other challenges that we have to discuss.

1. What Is A Global Mindset?

It has been generally agreed that global leaders operate in a much more complex context compared to domestic leaders.

Global leaders are involved in tasks that have an international scope, and they are required to navigate through the endless, dynamic, constantly changing, uncertain, ambiguous, and sometimes risky global environment.

Global leaders must also influence their global community and lead them to work together towards a common goal, despite the vast differences in culture, values, perception of power, and communication styles.

This complexity demands global leaders to develop for themselves a “global mindset”.

Multiple definitions for “global mindset” exist, but we can all agree that the global mindset is a more extreme level of the “local mindset”. A global mindset incorporates all of the well-known characteristics, skills, proficiencies, and attitudes of a business leader, with the addition of a deep understanding of the diversity and complexity that emerge within a global organization.

A global mindset is critical for leaders who want to achieve great results in an international context. Global companies need leaders who:

  • Have foundational global knowledge about the diverse socio-cultural and institutional systems
  • Have the intellectual capacity to navigate through global complexities and not be paralyzed by them
  • Have the personal attributes that enable them to connect and work effectively with people from other cultures of the world
  • Have the capability to build and nurture strong, long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with individuals, groups, and organizations in different countries

The 4 criteria mentioned above are the 4 defining pillars of a “global mindset”.

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2. Attributes That A Global Executive Should Have

As part of the Thunderbird Global Mindset Project, a group of researchers interviewed 215 senior international executives in different cities in the United States, Europe, and Asia. They were asked to rate (on a scale from 1 to 7) a number of individual attributes that they believe to be critical to the success of a global leader.

The results were not so surprising. A global leader possesses all of the defining characteristics that we discussed above. Respecting other cultures is the most important attribute, with a score of 6.73, followed by Ability to generate positivity in people from different parts of the world, Willingness to adapt and learn, Willingness to accept ideas, and Positive attitudes towards other cultures and regions.

It is evident that Cultural Intelligence plays an important role in managing across borders.

Further researches also point out that Intellectual Capital (the capability to understand other cultures, global business models, political and economic systems in different parts of the world) is another requirement.

Global leaders should also be able to maintain trusting relationships with those from all parts of the world. To achieve this, the global leader must have solid global knowledge and the ability to be open to global unfamiliarity. Once they have both of those, they will be able to effortlessly interact with people from different parts of the world.

In other words, interaction must be built on respect and understanding.

global mindset a must-have for any global leaders

3. The Importance of A Global Mindset

3.1. Global Mindset Enables Global Expansion

A strong global Mindset is the foundation for a strong and thriving global business.

As soon as a company reaches the International Expansion stage, the executives have to change everything they used to know about doing business and think about it in a new light. However, at the same time, they must somehow manage to retain the essence of their company. They must know what makes their company go from local to global in the first place, and try their best to preserve that originality.

Having a global mindset is all about having understanding and respect.

Understanding refers to the understanding of the region they’re about to enter.

There are so many facets of a country that the global leader must take into perspective. The 4 largest components of a business environment are Cultural, Social, Political, and Economic. By analyzing these 4 components, the global leader should at least have a general understanding of what it means to do business in a country or region that is almost alien to them.

However, sometimes the global leader must acknowledge the fact that they don’t have enough time to dive deep into the subtleties and nuances of those 4 components. Instead, it is a lot more effective to consult other natives.

That is when the respect factor comes into play.

When working with people from other cultures, global leaders gain a new perspective that they could never have had if they work solely with people in their region.

If these native workers come from the country that the company is expanding into, they can sometimes become a cultural consultant. They grow up in that country, in that culture, and the essence of that place is deeply rooted in their behaviors.

Sometimes they don’t know that the way they’re behaving was actually conditioned by their surroundings, and they can become a cultural consultant for the company nevertheless. These natives can bring fresh, exciting, and applicable insights to the table.

If they’re treated with respect, and know that their opinions are listened to, they will be willing to share cultural insights that propel the business forward.

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3.2. A Global Mindset Brings Competitive Advantage

As global business connections are increasing in their number and value, the nature of international business is also becoming more inclusive, multidirectional, and interlinked.

Going global is not a trend. It is a must.

It is normal to go global even from a relatively early stage of business in todays’ business environment. The extreme interconnectedness of the modern business world opens up vast opportunities for any business.

Unfortunately, not all businesses know how to catch these opportunities. They don’t have a “Global Mindset” to make it happen.

That’s why a Global Mindset is a competitive advantage.

Managers who possess the attributes of a Global Leader will effortlessly course through the challenges of the global business world.

Corporate leaders are therefore advised to develop, exhibit, and act with a global mindset for their firms to achieve and maintain and competitive edge in international markets.

Without a Global Mindset, firms are more likely to face better prepared and more knowledgeable competitors.

This threatens the very survival of the firm.

In other words, competition in the international markets is not all about pricing and quality. It is merely the tip of the iceberg. The true competition is the competition of the mindset.

4. How to Lead a Global Firm With A Global Mindset

4.1. Work With Huge Volumes of Information Effectively

The complexity of the international business environment is incredibly high. When the complexity is high, the volume of information that a global leader needs to absorb, process, dissect, and make decisions on is.

This huge information flow is essential for them, so it is important that they manage these information effectively.

That’s not to mention the fact that there is always a sense of uncertainty inherent in making decisions. It is better to accept and deal with such certainties.

Researches show that there is a considerable difference between the way local and global leaders make decisions. When examining a problem, they differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information far more easily than local leaders.

They achieved that because they have developed a systematic approach to sorting out relevant and irrelevant information.

They have also identified patterns that exist in the information they received, and devised action scripts on which they can base their decisions.

This is crucial, and sometimes a requirement, for leaders who want to operate effectively and thrive in such a complex and dynamically changing environment.

4.2. Explore The Culture

Effective cross-cultural management is necessary, but difficult to achieve without a good understanding of the diversity that’s taking place.

A deep, thorough research on the cultural background of the people in the company can bring major insights into the dynamics that exist in the organization.

Once the understanding has been established, managers and leaders can then consolidate their understanding by directly interacting with the people from those cultures.

It can be a trial and error process, but it’s totally an interesting journey, and the rewards are extremely satisfying in the long run.

In addition, there shouldn’t be only one person with cultural intelligence in the organization.

It’s the job of the global leader to share their knowledge to those in need.

This is to encourage a positive, accepting, and diverse work environment. This is the required condition for a truly global business.

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4.3. Know the Industry

If the company has found great success in the local area, it is evident that the leaders are at least doing it the right way. It is logical to conclude that they know what they’re doing, who they’re working with, and what they’re selling. They know the industry.

However, once they go global, things change.

In international markets, companies can’t do things the way they are used to when they’re still operating at a domestic level.

From a Marketing perspective, it is almost impossible to reuse the same Marketing campaign in a new country, even if it achieved tremendous success in the home country.

This is because of the change in consumer behavior. Consumers from China won’t behave in the same way as consumers from European countries. Tweaks will definitely need to be made to avoid unwanted misunderstandings and communication ineffectiveness.

Similarly, from a Legal perspective, a different legal environment requires a different approach.

When dealing with all of these “newness”, the executives must also look out for the competitors. Know who they are, what they’re doing, and devise an appropriate strategy to challenge their positions in the market, if your goal is to be disruptive.

4.4. Maintain the Relationships

Relationship management is a critical but rarely talked of topic in global business.

If there is no genuine interest in personal relationships, global leaders won’t be able to do business in many countries.

Maintaining relationships in an international context is all about accepting other cultures, while suspending judgements about other people and their intentions.

We all have preconceived notion of how the world works and operates, how individuals behave, and what is deemed as acceptable or unacceptable.

These notions were hard-wired into us through our upbringing, our personal experience, and the culture we were born into. Therefore, we view other cultures through our subjective lens.

When we come into interaction with other cultures and unintentionally bring these notions into the conversation, the results may be not what we want them to be.

There can be embarrassment, misunderstanding, loss, insult, and sometimes even lost business opportunities and relationships.

The goal is to develop compatible objectives between the two parties, establish a sense of trust, and express a desire to connect in the long-term for mutual benefits.

All of these have to be done on the basis of respect and understanding. Judgements must be refrained until further interaction. Global leaders should take time to observe the culture which their international clients come from, and develop appropriate strategies to communicate with them.


In the end, going global brings tremendous potential for any business, but it’s necessary that executives develop a global mindset so that they can navigate through the complexities of international markets. It’s about about having knowledge, understanding, and respect.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the global mindset with the community in the comment section down below!

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