As we move further into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, globalization of business becomes increasingly more common. More organizations have cross-cultural environments, and business leaders must understand diverse cultural, political, and business customs. 

“People today are now more informed and better connected to others around the world than at any other time in history,” said Thunderbird professor Mansour Javidan. “The problem is that despite business globalization and geographical interconnection, most of us are not educated to work with people who are unlike us. We teach global leadership at Thunderbird because the world needs leaders who can see past culture and politics to engage people who are wholly unlike themselves. Leaders with a Global Mindset.”

Successful global leaders develop and cultivate a Global Mindset. That’s a term you’ve probably heard before, but what exactly does it mean, why is it important in our global world, and how can you develop it?

What is a Global Mindset?

Global Mindset is the set of individual qualities, communication skills, and actionable knowledge that empowers those in leadership roles to influence multicultural individuals, groups, and organizations. It’s part personality, part business savvy, part know-how, and is essential for success in our increasingly interconnected and competitive world. 

A Global Mindset profile consisted of three important dimensions that work together to create this unique mindset: 

  • Intellectual Capital – The cognitive aspect refers to what the manager knows about global business in their industry and its broader macro environment. It also refers to how easy it is for them to analyze, digest and interpret this information. 
  • Psychological Capital – The affective aspect refers to the manager’s emotional energy, capacity for self-reflection, and willingness to engage in a global environment. It reflects a positive and constructive attitude towards diversity of thought and action. It is the desire and ability to understand and embrace cultural differences. 
  • Social Capital – The behavioral aspect reflects the manager’s ability to act in a way that helps build trusting relationships with people from other parts of the world. Whether you're heading for a leadership role in the private or public sector, understanding how social capital works in global companies, governments, and nonprofits is essential for anyone studying organizational leadership.

Why is having a Global Mindset important? 

Because our world is increasingly more interconnected, at almost any large company or other organization, in any role, people will have intercultural experiences – through team members, leaders, or customers. Showing openness and being comfortable working in these environments is an invaluable skill that bestows a competitive advantage in today's complex and fast-paced international business environment. 

Especially for global leaders, who most often work in culturally diverse multinational settings, having a Global Mindset is key to success. Leaders in global roles must be able to engage with and influence people from different countries. These global leaders also have the power to encourage diversity and inclusion in corporate culture, providing real-world, strategic solutions for their transnational enterprises. 

How can you develop a Global Mindset?

Like being good at a particular sport or musical instrument, some people are naturally globally minded, and others have to develop it. But either way, they each have to work hard and practice to get better. Regardless of your starting point or which category you fall into, there are ways to develop and grow your Global Mindset. Doing so will globalize your insight and decision-making, yielding long-term advantages throughout your leadership development journey. 

1. Gain self-awareness – "Above all else, know yourself." This bit of timeless wisdom from the ancient Greeks applies to modern international business. One of the first things you can do to develop this advantageous mindset is to become aware of your own culture and biases. Taking an honest look at our own biases can be challenging, but developing awareness is the only way to work through them. Self-assurance naturally emerges out of this vital element of personal development. 

2. Get curious – To fully understand something, we must get curious. Learn about other people and different cultures. Ask a lot of questions. Travel and read about far-off places when you can. Start to develop relationships with people from other countries. Master new leadership skills and business practices that will help you be more global-minded. 

3. Be flexible and open-minded – Cross-cultural environments will often stretch you beyond your comfort level. You may be used to doing something one way, but your colleague from India goes about it differently. Remember that neither way is right or wrong; they're just different. Focus on being curious and try to adapt to the situation. Be open to trying new foods and activities along with trying out new methods of doing familiar things. 

4. Learn a new language – Learning a foreign language has many cognitive benefits, including increased grey-matter volume in the brain and higher neuroplasticity. And it has been shown to have anti-aging effects on the brain as well. Language study also helps in the development of your Global Mindset by providing new cultural perspectives. So not only does learning a new language give your brain a boost, but it can also prepare you for international experiences.  

5. Practice – Immerse yourself in multicultural environments. Practice speaking a new language with someone fluent. Try a new ritual or food from another culture. The more you practice and interact in global environments, the more your mindset will grow.   

6. Never Stop Learning – Good global leaders never stop learning. Define a strategy for yourself to learn something new every day. Maybe that means reading a book or the newspaper. Maybe it’s chatting with people from other cultures or visiting other counties. Tap into free resources like the library, free museums, newspapers, and online publications. To further accelerate your learning, enroll in a graduate program or executive education program

Leadership and management in international business come with inherent challenges and discomfort. Whether you’re an international executive or a student, developing a Global Mindset will help you thrive in global business and beyond.

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