Core Competencies of Global Leaders

Globalization is a phenomenon that is changing the landscape of every aspect of life, particularly leadership. Globalization is the “ongoing process of interdependence and integration of economics, societies, and cultures that occurs through a worldwide network of global communication and trade”. (Mendenhall et al., 2008) This worldwide interdependence and integration is causing organizations to realize that the skill set necessary for leaders to effectively lead has shifted from a traditional skill set. (Mendenhall et al., 2008, p. xi) As a result, global organizations are demanding a new kind of leader with new attributes and competencies, (Marquerdt, 2000, p. 17) primarily leaders with cultural adaptability and sensitivity. (Hofstede, 1980) Unfortunately, organizations are finding that the supply of global leaders, or even those with the potential to become effective global leaders does not match their demand. (Terrell, 2013, p. 1057)

As globalization has sat on the horizon for 25 years, organizations are realizing that it has finally arrived (Mendenhall et al., 2008) and there is not a clear understanding of the necessary competencies global leaders need to have. Progress has been made regarding the identification of core competencies, however there was not significant research until Robert Terrell and Katherine Rosenbusch published their findings in 2013. Terrell and Rosenbusch used the definition of competencies used by Spencer and Spencer (1993): underlying characteristics of people that indicate ways of behaving or thinking, generalizing across situations, and enduring for a reasonably long period of time, and reflecting motives, traits, self-concept, knowledge, and skills or abilities. (p. 6) Terrell and Rosenbusch identified 56 competency elements that they clustered into seven competencies: (Terrell, 2013, p. 1066)

(1) Cultural awareness and sensitivity

(2) Global mindset or perspective

(3) Learning from experiences

(4) Developing and maintaining relationships

(5) Communication

(6) Particular traits or attitudes

(7) Necessary knowledge and skills


Hofstede, G. (1980). Motivation, Leadership and Organization: Do American Theories Apply Abroad. Organizational Dynamics, (Summer), pp. 42–63.

Marquardt, M. J. (2012). Global Leaders for the Twenty-First Century. SUNY Press.

Mendenhall, M. E., Osland, J., Bird, A., Oddou, G. R., & Maznevski, M. L. (2008). Global leadership: research, practice, and development. London ; New York: Routledge.

Spencer, L. M. J., & Spencer, S. M. (1993). Competence at Work: Models for Superior Performance. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Terrell, R. S., & Rosenbusch, K. (2013). How global leaders develop. Journal of Management Development, 32(10), 1056–1079.

2 thoughts on “Core Competencies of Global Leaders

  1. msviolately says:

    Putting everything into a global perspective because it is the key to making us more tolerant, empathetic, inquisitive and intelligent.

    Great post, keep up the good writing. Check out

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