The world is expanding in complexity, as well as shrinking in scope, and the leadership models of yesteryear have become somewhat antiquated and risk being dangerously ineffective in a global environment. The developing global community is coming of age in a world of “high chaos and continuous change” (Marquardt, 2000, p.1) and with the expansion of the Internet and the deluge of information available to individuals; the perceived need for a leader has diminished. As cultures and companies seemingly appear to be coming into alignment with one another, operating as if the “world were a single entity” (Marquardt, 2000, p. 4), the reality is that there are still major differences throughout global cultures that impact daily life and function, including how leadership is exercised and followers adhere to their leaders. For instance, leadership has been widely studied and written about since World War II, however, American scholars influenced by a democratic mindset have done the majority of the research. (Koopman et al., 1999; Nadler 2002) Though the research is not as extensive it is clear the leadership construct around the world does not follow a democratic perspective, (Muczyk, 2008, p.277) and in some cases are in opposition to a democratic model of leadership. So, it is has become imperative to have a broader understanding of leadership from a global perspective to better train leaders for the global village of tomorrow.
Over the last 25 years globalization has developed to the point where it is a reality rather than a theory or a coming phenomenon. (Terrell, 2013, p.41) Mendenhall et al. (2008) defined globalization as “the ongoing process of interdependence of integration of economies, societies, and cultures that occurs through a worldwide network of global communication and trade.” Often when globalization is discussed, it is in the context of economics (Galateanu, 2012, p. 1035) where the world of business is more universal around the globe. The same jargon is used, money is exchanged for services or goods, and expectations are similar no matter where in the world business is being conducted. Where the differences arise are in the customs and observances of those carrying out the business transactions and negotiations. It is this area of difference that is magnified when the focus moves out of the business sector and into the private lives of individuals worldwide. It is within the individual that the differences are most apparent and makes the creation of harmony in a globalized world challenging. It is in the individual that motivations and values derive to govern perspectives, behaviors, and decisions, which are all responses to how one sees the environment around them. (Muczyk, 2008, p.279) It is also this perspective on environment that originates in the core of the individual that governs how a follower chooses to be led, and what type of leader will be followed.
Hofstede (1983) identified four dimensions that effect acceptance of leadership style by a culture:
“(a) uncertainty avoidance concerns the degree to which people are comfortable with ambiguous situations and with the inability to predict future events with accuracy; (b) masculinity–femininity represents the degree to which a culture emphasizes assertiveness, dominance, and independence; (c) individualism–collectivism refers to the tendency of a culture’s norms and values to emphasize satisfying either individual or group needs; and (d) power distance indicates the degree to which members of a society accept differences in power and status among themselves.”
Other researchers have further reinforced Hofstede’s research. For instance, “Early (1993) highlighted the importance of the individualistic versus collectivistic dimensions in shaping a prescribed leadership style when a given culture is considered.” (Muczyk, 2008, p. 278)
Due to this reality, leaders who desire to lead on a global scale must shift how they lead from their individual cultures and customs to a more global style that appeals to individuals in many parts of the world. So, the question arises: what does a global leader look like?
The major adjustment that must be made for a global leadership perspective is having the ability to use the talents and potentials of a diverse group of people, organizations, and societies to develop peak performance. (Dunn, 2012, p. 4) This may seem like a simple task, however it can be incredibly daunting considering the depth at which culture and customs are embedded into individuals, along with the “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment” (Dunn, 2012, p. 4) this peak performance is being sought. In times of uncertainty individuals lean on what is familiar and constant in their lives, such as cultures and customs. This means the adjustment in approach must be on the leader, not on the individual being led. A global leader’s approach must meet the individual where they are, and often times multiple individuals from various cultures and contexts, in order “to develop talent and evoke the potential in people…to succeed.” (Dunn, 2012, p.4)
This cross-cultural approach to leadership requires a new degree of critical thinking, or rather “global critical leadership.” (Jenkins, 2012, p.94) To be a global critical leader is to be able to “develop concepts and tools that can be used across disciplines, subjects, or domains.” (Jenkins, 2012, p.94) Earley et al. (2006) coined this as ‘cultural intelligence’ explaining its necessity in facilitating effective cross-cultural adjustment (p. 3) in three key areas: “what you think and how you solve problems (cultural strategic thinking); whether or not you are energized and persistent in your actions (motivation); and whether you can act in certain ways (behavior).” (Earley, 2006, p. 5)
While Earley et al. proposed a capacity to have cultural intelligence as a necessity for a global leader, Terrell and Rosenbusch provide five attributes from their research that make a global leader. Their research revealed global leaders “(a) develop through firsthand global leadership experience; (b) learn the importance of cultural sensitivity, relationships and networks and curiosity or desire to learn; (c) require a unique set of global leadership competencies; (d) are driven by curiosity, openness and a desire to learn; and (e) develop and learn intuitively.” (Terrell, 2013, p. 42) It is these attributes that take a leader to the level of being globally effective.
One benefit of global leadership is openness across cultures to all levels of leadership. According to Dunn (2012), there is no discrimination of leaders due to their positional activities. Global leadership is inclusive to all leaders of all levels, inviting them to the conversation with the “intention of developing leadership effectiveness, global competency, and the responsibility to foster talent and potential in the global marketplace.” (p. 4) This is a welcome shift. Burns’ research in 1978 indicated leadership was perceived more as an elitist endeavor, projecting “heroic figures against a shadowy backdrop of drab, powerless masses.” (p. 4) But, as Northouse points out in 2012, “leaders are not above or better than followers. Leaders and followers must be understood in relation to each other and collectively.” (Loc. 490-493) There has been a significant shift in the perspective of leadership making it more of a partnership with followers than a dictatorship of followers. Warren Bennis (1999) even points to technology and globalization as the “end of leadership”. (p.72) As Bennis states, the American deification of the position of leader is synonymous with “hero” (Bennis, 1999, p. 72), but this is not the perspective globally. Many cultures embrace a communal approach to leadership and invite leaders of many different levels and positions to the conversation. Bennis’ words summarize the shift that has happened since Burns’ research, and accurately points to globalization as one major factor requiring leadership to grow and adapt.
Consideration must be made at this point of how a Christian leader can be effective globally while also being true to faith in Jesus Christ. An example of global leadership can be pulled from the life of King Solomon. He had a significant sphere of influence beyond his local environment, reaching deep into the known world during his time. King Solomon, a man of great wisdom as well as the son and successor to the great warrior King David, brought Israel to the pinnacle of its global power. His wisdom drew rulers from all over the known world (I Kings 4:34), but he proved to be a great businessman as evidenced by the many alliances he made with surrounding countries. These alliances brought peace as well as prosperity. It was through marriage though that these alliances were often made, which brought into the house of David the worship of idols and other gods through these foreign wives. A most notable marriage was to the daughter of Egypt’s pharaoh (I Kings 3:1), which created a link between Israel and Egypt (Winter, 2005) but also introduced a slew of gods into Israel. Solomon also made an alliance with Hiram, the King of Tyre (I Kings 5:1-12), “enabling him to conduct his sea trade freely” (Winter, 2005), but this also cost him twenty cities in Galilee to be placed under the rule of Hiram. Later on his life, it is said of him that despite all his wisdom, Solomon’s heart turned to the gods of his wives and away from Yahweh. (I Kings 11:4)
Solomon’s global leadership created alliances, brought prosperity, brokered peace, and created a mighty nation, all without waging war. Solomon was able to cross the cultural divide and create necessary relationships. His global critical leadership, or cultural intelligence, aided by his world-renowned wisdom, allowed Solomon to navigate the politics and economics of the time to prosper his nation while benefitting the nations around him. Unfortunately, he also sacrificed his heart and dedication to Yahweh along the way through a series of compromises. Not only did he sacrifice his own personal dedication to Yahweh, but he also drained the nation of Israel of spiritual sensitivity and placed seeds of compromise and unfaithfulness into the culture that would later lead to the exile of his beloved nation.
As global leaders, Christians already have a built-in compassion for the well being and betterment of the followers they serve. Christians have a proclivity to love those around them and find common ground for cohabitation. All these natural byproducts of being a follower of Jesus Christ equip Christian leaders to be global leaders. As long as the pitfalls of compromise that plagued Solomon do not reduce the level of commitment to Jesus in Christian world leaders, there is no reason global Christian leaders shouldn’t be effective front runners in the advancement of the global village.
Globalization is not a coming phenomenon it is a present reality. With the advancement of technology and the blurring of the lines between cultures and people groups, there is a growing demand for global leadership. Such leaders must possess a diverse set of attributes that equip them to bridge the gap between a diverse cross section of individuals. These leaders must be able to connect personally with the individuals of many cultures in order to gain influence and rapport in a short amount of time. Today’s Christian leader, though naturally equipped to value the followers they lead, must be able to remain flexible to various cultures without breaking to pressures of those cultures by compromising dedication to Jesus Christ. It is a wide open area of advancement and opportunity and, though it will require a great deal of hard work, is an area where the Christian community of leaders can be effective and gain influence on a world stage.
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