This article is derived from the on-demand webinar “Global Mindset: What Do Leaders Need to Succeed?” In it, Thunderbird professor Mansour Javidan provides an overview of the pitfalls that hinder global leaders in cross-cultural settings and how leaders can develop a Global Mindset to achieve international success.

How do organizations and leaders thrive in a marketplace where competition is global? How do they create pathways to success by globalizing operations, talent, and mindsets simultaneously?

Those are questions Thunderbird professor Mansour Javidan, Ph.D. explores in his research, consulting, and coursework. He teaches how managers can work effectively with a broad array of international counterparts by bridging cultural, language, and hierarchical challenges.

In the webinar, “Global Mindset: What Do Leaders Need to Succeed?” Dr. Javidan frames the discussion through the prism of global business leaders’ expectations about the international business climate over the next five years. He asks:

  • Do you expect major opportunities outside your country?
  • Do you anticipate the need to work with people from other parts of the world?
  • Will you need to create a globally integrated enterprise or value chain?
  • Do you agree that influencing people who are different is difficult?

For leaders who answered yes to most of those questions, global mindset is essential to success, says Dr. Javidan.

Sending the wrong message

In the webinar, Dr. Javidan presents two humorous examples that illustrate the challenges of cross-cultural business. The first is a Coca-Cola salesman’s misadventures in Saudi Arabia. According to the story, the salesman doesn’t speak Arabic so he decides to make his sales pitch a series of three posters, which were posted around the country like so:

The problem? Saudis read from right to left. Not surprisingly, the salesman’s overseas post was short-lived.

“How do organizations and leaders thrive in a marketplace where competition is global? With Global Mindset.” – Click to tweet

In the second example, Dr. Javidan makes the point about how what’s seen as polite in one culture can be seen as quite rude in another. The ad is funny, but in real life those sorts of cultural missteps can derail negotiations, given how significant personal relationships are in business.


To buttress the point, Dr. Javidan discusses a survey of 1,000 internationally oriented Chinese companies, 72% of whom “believe the biggest difficulties that arise in conducting business overseas stem from cultural differences.”

Ethical dilemmas

Then there are ethical dilemmas that stem from different cultural norms. Dr. Javidan gives the example of an Indian airline that advertises strict physical appearance standards as qualifications for would-be flight attendants. “So if you’re the manager for United Airlines in India, do you adopt those same local hiring standards, even though they’re illegal in the U.S.?”

“72% of international Chinese companies surveyed ‘believe the biggest difficulties that arise in conducting business overseas stem from cultural differences.’” – Click to tweet

Global Mindset

The key to cross-border success, says Dr. Javidan, is adopting and cultivating a Global Mindset to understand the differences and complexities among various cultures.

Since 2004, Dr. Javidan and his colleagues at Thunderbird have interviewed more than 32,000 business leaders from various industries and countries to define the antecedents and consequences of the Global Mindset, develop metrics, and deploy scientifically based assessment tools for global companies.

The various elements of Global Mindset, and how to grow it, are described in a series of Knowledge Network articles: Why Global Mindset is Essential, Measuring Global Mindset, and Growing Your Global Mindset.

“The key to cross-border success is cultivating a Global Mindset to understand cultural differences and complexities.” – Click to tweet

The “Global Mindset: What Do Leaders Need to Succeed?” webinar concludes with a Q&A:

  • How can Global Mindset help with doing business in India?
  • Does President Trump have a Global Mindset?
  • Can a Global Mindset advance domestic economic development?
  • Did a lack of Global Mindset lead to Brexit?

To hear Dr. Javidan’s answers to those questions and more, check out the webinar here.

Watch the webinar

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