Are global leaders born or made?

Do I have global leaders?

Do I have global leaders?

Do I have global leaders?

My Board wants me to expand into Asia next year. I do not know if I have the right people to make the expansion work. How can I tell if my people can be global leaders?  Where do I begin?


This is a common problem most leaders face as they expand globally. Do you have the global leaders needed to grow your business overseas? Are you planning to send people on expat assignments? They are costly but have long term advantages. Do you plan to send someone on a short term assignment that would last around 6-12 months with frequent trips back home?


Your global leader selection process involves interviews, 360 assessments and executive coaching for the duration of the assignment. Unless you have the right combination of talent, skills and interest in a global assignment in your current staff, it is safe to assume that you do not have global leaders ready. With the right development however, your people can be developed into global leaders.


1. In-depth Interview. Some of they key questions you need to ask during the interview relate not only to their technical knowledge but also to their personal and professional leadership skills. Once you are convinced about their technical ability and leadership experience, you need to probe deeper.  Find out their personal willingness. Find out their family’s willingness to move and adapt to a new environment, especially a culture that may be considered very different from their current one. Are they willing to pay the price and endure the sacrifice to be a global leader? Yes, working abroad is not fancy and glamorous. It entails a lot of sacrifice and difficulties. Find out if they have been in situations where they were totally out of their comfort zone. How did they handle the situation. What was the result?. Ask what would they do differently if they had to do it all over again. Global leaders are not easily intimidated when they are out of their comfort zone.

2. Assessment. An assessment will provide you and the candidate an objective measurement to assess their readiness to be a global leader. The assessment that I like to use is the Transglobal Leadership Survey. It is a proven and reliable 360 assessment based on the research conducted by Sharkey and Cooke on top global leaders, who created positive constructive cultures that resulted in successful business results.  The candidate completes a self-assessment. They ask their bosses, peers and direct reports to assess their global leader readiness. Based on the results of the survey, you can identify which candidate will be a successful global leader.   Be aware that there is no perfect global leader who will score high on all the Transglobal leadership behaviors. The survey’s value is to point out their strengths and areas to develop.

3. The third suggestion is to hire an executive coach for your top global leader candidate, preferably a coach with prior global experience and expertise in transitioning local leaders into becoming a global leader. The coach is a trusted adviser who will help the candidate navigate through complex and sometimes confusing cultural landscapes and nuances of working and living outside your home country.


How can I identify local leaders who can lead my overseas operations?

Can I find local leaders who can become global leaders?

Can I find local leaders who can become global leaders?

In order to expand globally, I feel we have to hire staff native to the market we choose. How can I get my local office up and running and staff it with the right people, how can I identify local talent who can be a global leader?


Sichon says:  Your instincts are right, the key to building a strong local presence is to hire a top local leader who has the qualities to attract and retain local talent while at the same time can serve as a global leader, liaison and interpreter back to headquarters.


It might be necessary at first to send one of your own trained staff to transfer technical knowledge or set up systems and processes that would link to your home office.


However, you will want to quickly identify someone local who can communicate effectively, a self-starter, respected in his local community and has the qualities of a Transglobal leader. Not all local leaders can transition to global leaders. The Transglobal Leadership Survey can help determine the local leader’s strengths and development plan to be a global leader. To learn more about Transglobal leadership, contact me at liza at


How can my top leader fail after I moved him to another country?

Can a global leader fail after moving to another country?

Can a global leader fail after moving to another country?

I have an executive who was very successful in Europe. We promoted him to the United States to head a larger group.   After two years, he has been unable to replicate his success in Europe. He has alienated his team and has not achieved expectations. He also has the lowest employee engagement scores. How has this happened and can an executive coach help him?


It appears that his success formula in Europe no longer works and needs to be updated. This is not surprising. A new expat leader needs to build a new success strategy in a new environment. Definitely, an executive coach can help him.


Before you contract with an executive coach, it is important to find out the willingness of the executive to work with a coach. Establish a clear contracting agreement with your executive on the value of an executive coach, honestly point out what is at stake, identify the problem that needs to be solved, the expected outcomes and the consequences if this problem is not resolved. Once this is clarified, the accountability lies on the executive being coached. He or she needs to take full responsibility to contract with the executive coach, set the goals of the engagement, expectations and work on improving behaviors that will make him more effective.


I establish trusting working relationships with my clients where we can be totally open and honest with each other both ways. We identify the specific areas that need development and create a 100 day strategic plan to accomplish our objectives. Depending on the specific need, I may recommend an assessment, interview key stakeholders, observe the executive at work or facilitate a leadership session with the executive’s direct reports. Each executive coaching engagement is unique and customized to meet the expected outcomes.


Most often the success formula in one’s own home country does not work automatically in another region. This happens unless it is purposefully redesigned to adapt to the new environment, culture and expectations of the new team.  This is where most leaders make the mistake and fail.  They naively think that their local leadership style is transferable.  In this particular case, the European leader had an authoritarian style that made him successful in his local market.  The US team did not appreciate being told what to do, did not feel that he was communicating with them and was paralyzed when he started firing a couple of leaders who have been with the company for a long time.  They lived in fear that they would be next, thus results are down, attrition is up and employee engagement reached an all time low.


We had our work cut out for us.  We first had to establish a high level of trust before we could begin to work on our tough issues.  This took a long time because he was in total denial that his success formula no longer worked.  Once we got past that, we did a 360 assessment so he could identify what areas in his own leadership worked against him.  There has been some incremental progress. Results were starting to improve and he is starting to get more relaxed.   Unfortunately, these kinds of changes do not happen overnight.  This leader has his work cut out for him and it will take several executive coaching sessions to see more visible results.


Going forward, it would be better to hire an executive coach at the very beginning of the expat assignment.  This way the level of awareness and change can happen during the first months in a new country.


“I am going on an expat assignment.  What do I need to know?  Do I need an expat coach?”

Global leader on an expat assignment

Global leader on an expat assignment

Being an ex-pat global can be overwhelming, with many moving parts and critical priorities that all need your attention. A lot is at stake, you feel the pressure to produce, you may be constantly jet lagged due to travel and late night conference calls, you do not want to disappoint your bosses and you certainly want to ensure your family’s happiness and well-being while away from home.


In order to ensure that you are successful in your ex-pat role, there are a few items that need to be top on your priority list.


  1. Be clear with your stakeholders on the goals & objectives of your assignment. How will your success be measured, how quickly does your boss expect to see these results
  2. Decision Making – As an ex-pat, you are going to make several decisions, some simultaneously, some urgent, some without all the information that you need.  What decisions do you need to run by headquarters and which decisions are you empowered to make.
  3. Team – ensure that you have the best team in place or move quickly to have the right people. You will heavily depend on your local team and you need to be able to trust them.
  4. Communications – what is the frequency and method of communicating back to HQ and how often do you need to provide updates? This is where most ex-pats get frustrated. Agree upfront with your bosses on how to proactively connect with each other.
  5. Cultural and Language training – do not pass up the opportunity to learn about the cultural nuances and local language of your host country. Many ex pats feel that this is not necessary and pass this up. Local language is generally more of a necessity for day to day living than it is in the office since most business conversations are conducted in English.
  6. Global leadership development and ex-pat coaching – Cultural and language training is not enough. In order to be effective, you need to acquire new leadership skills that will help you succeed in a global multi-cultural & multi-lingual environments. Our Transglobal Leadership TM workshop (Sharkey, Cooke et al) can be customized to your needs. It includes an extensive 360 assessment of your global readiness, strengths and areas of development; ex pat coaching and a strategic action plan for your first 100 days. We do an individual customized program or a group program tailored to your company’s needs. My ex pat coach in Belgium was a life saver who eventually became a close family friend. I confided in him and his insights and advice have been invaluable. Please contact me for more information.


As a female expat, how can I support my husband who now has to be a stay-at home dad?

Female global leader has a stay at home husband

Female global leader has a stay at home husband

This is perhaps the biggest worry of most female expats. While we are confident about the expectations of our role, and our technical ability to do the job, we may be concerned about our spouses’ adjustment in a new environment. Generally, children adjust quickly to a new environment, the structure of the school, new friends and routine activities help children adjust smoothly. In general, female spouses get very busy setting up their new households, meet new people in their children’s schools, groceries and know how to keep themselves occupied.


The female expat’s biggest worry is their spouse. Male spouses suddenly find themselves out of their comfort zone as stay at home dads, now caring for brand new responsibilities like child-care, attending parent teacher meetings and conducting various house hold duties. Here are some tips for female ex-pats to help your spouse adjust to their new life while you are immersed and focused on your new expat assignment:


  1. Local networks. Finding the STUDS was a life saver for us when we moved to Belgium. STUDS stands for Spouses Trailing Under Duress Successfully, husbands or significant others of female ex-pats from all over the world with common interests. They have a biking group, wine tasting events and my husband quickly joined the golf group. They played golf every morning they could and hang out together for lunch comparing grocery sale prices, dry cleaners, Parent-teacher information and commiserated about local cultural differences. Encourage your spouse to check out local meet ups in your city and find the time to create new friends together.
  2. Hobbies and interests. Aside from golf, my husband became the coach of my daughter’s little league team and with other chaperone mothers, traveled to different cities in Europe to compete. The mothers and kids were pleased that they had a dad with them.
  3. Acknowledge loneliness or homesickness. You are both fish out of water in this new place and the feeling is real, it is normal to feel this way. Plan your next home leave or tour your new environment, the assignment will move so fast that before you know it, it is time to go back home. If your relatives and friends can visit, invite them over.
  4. Time for each other. You or your children may be traveling and this can cause some anxiety for you or your spouse. I’ve accepted that we are a global family and whatever city I was in, I would say to myself, I am home. Home is not a physical place, it is where my heart is. I would take our family picture wherever I went and it is the first thing that I would unpack and place near my bed. My husband and I would call each other daily, no matter where I was. With free video calls, it is possible to feel connected and make time for each other even when you miles apart.


Are global leaders born or made?

Are global leaders born or made?

Are global leaders born or made?

This is a very common question frequently asked in our workshops. Another common question is — where do I begin to develop myself as a global leader?  How do I identify young talent who have global potential?


I think the answer is both, global leaders are born with that special gene, have it in them to be global citizens and at the same time, they can further develop themselves to be effective global leaders. Being in the global spotlight starts with a deep curiosity, appreciation and respect for cultures and lifestyles other than your own.


I believe global citizenship is a yearning, a calling and a seed planted in you that needs to grow, be fulfilled and expressed. You know it when you have it. You are naturally curious about what is in store for you out there. You have an adventurous mind & spirit and make traveling to distant places a priority whether in your studies, for leisure, for work and in general, in your life. Traveling to a new country or city is the highlight of your vacation, you do not like to go to the same place every time you take time off. You are comfortable in strange, unusual or vastly different settings and find a way to connect what is new and unfamiliar to something that you can appreciate.


Having this inborn curiosity is not a guarantee that you will be successful global leaders. There are leadership behaviors that you need to acquire to be successful globally. The global behaviors described in the book by Sharkey, Cook, Winning with Transglobal Leadership, 2011 and its accompanying 360 Transglobal Leadership survey are used by global companies to develop global leaders in today’s fast paced & complex global world. I also recommend that you work with an executive coach to identify your strengths and areas of improvement.


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Why Hire a coach?

Top Reasons Coaches are Engaged:

(HBR Jan 2009)

    • Develop high potentials or facilitate transition: 48%
    • Act as a sounding board: 26%
    • Address derailing behavior: 12%