Peter Bailey

Shifting Perspectives on Leadership

Regardless of the size, location, or industry of your business, you are operating in a global environment.

Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

With significant demographic and technology shifts and emerging global markets, the business world has become a veritable marketplace of limitless interaction. Leaders are being challenged to better understand the nuances of their increasingly diverse business relationships both within and between companies, and to better manage the complexity impacting their decision-making and communication.

To do this successfully often requires a change in deep-seated perspectives. As a result, more companies than ever are placing greater emphasis on diversity and purposeful development.

Diverse Global Leadership

Today’s business leaders seem to agree diversity is needed in the workplace, and are hiring senior leaders with multi-cultural backgrounds and global experiences to lead them into the global economy. Despite this focus, many businesses continue to struggle to agree upon the definition of diversity, and why it ultimately matters.

The real power of workplace diversity comes from teams understanding how regional, demographic, and generational factors have shaped a person’s assumed way of doing things. In this way, the conversation around diversity in the workplace is expanding to focus more on how to recognize and cultivate diverse mindsets.

A diverse mindset is one that combines an appreciation of differences with a propensity to see common patterns across countries, markets, age, gender, or any other factors that create perceived differences. Diversity, in this sense, goes deeper than thinking in terms of ethnic groups to appreciate how distinct, subjective experiences can impact our behaviors and how we view the world.

Leadership in the global environment now requires employees to be keenly aware of how behavior, circumstances, and communication are viewed by people who come from different backgrounds, and how those differences can embraced to ultimately create more flexible organizations. Leaders who can readily adopt a diverse mindset to account for different perspectives — from how they talk on the phone, to where they hold meetings, to who they hire — will be most successful. And companies that set high expectations for leaders to speak and act more globally even as they work locally, will be most adaptable to change.

Purposeful Development

IBM, GE, Google, Apple, and even McDonald’s have long been proponents of corporate “universities”. These traditional corporate training approaches to leadership development have often followed the classic “sit down, be quiet, and listen” approach, which attempts to squeeze as much information as possible into as short a time as possible. This “cram training” can make organizations susceptible to adopting a check-the-box mentality toward development because it focuses on training as something done to employees rather than working with them to discover, maximize, and release their full potential.

Many leadership experts suggest you avoid these ill effects by designing learning that’s practical and challenging, but also includes opportunities for team bonding and laughter, quiet time and reflection, free-wheeling discussions, and a bit of surprise and adventure. Development opportunities should provide more than just content, especially with today’s inordinately high focus on information technology and the constant stream of information.

We have found that the leadership development pendulum is swinging to refocus on the people in companies and what might help them to work together better. This starts with better understanding the team by listening to them, providing purposeful development that is values-driven and closely knit to the organization’s vision and mission, and creating experiential discovery through access to thought-leading resources, immediate application of concepts, and fun.

Purposeful development creates a holistic mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual journey. This self-aware approach will create leaders that are ultimately more attuned to and respectful of their colleagues, which creates better teams and a healthy, cohesive culture.

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