After dealing with the challenges of distance and culture, the next challenge for global leadership development is how to create a leadership bench or pool that is truly global in scope. When you took the time to define leadership across the cultures that exist within your organization, you may have also begun to see potential succession patterns developing. We will discuss making leaders mobile later, but we will confine this discussion to the overall creation of a global bench.
The first step is to create the pool or bench. From the definitions you’ve collected, you should be able to create profiles of existing leaders within the organization. Plus, existing leaders may be able to begin choosing those professionals who can fit the leadership definition after going through the development program. These people can begin to fill the leadership pool or bench. Obviously getting them through the program you will create is going to be the first, and biggest, step to preparation. But how are you going to plan for succession across a diverse workforce?
There are many ways to create a bench and plan for succession if your organization is geographically diverse. First, consider the feasibility of creating leaders within a country or region-and to have them “earmarked” for those countries or regions. If this isn’t quite where the organization wants to go, consider creating the leadership bench that will prepare for succession across all cultures within the organization. This may mean that part of the development program will be temporary rotations into the person’s area of expertise or interest, as long as that rotation is outside of his or her normal region or culture.
When you analyze the populations that exist within the organization, the next step is to figure out if any patterns exist. For example, is there a high concentration of high-potential leaders in any one area? Or, on the other hand, is there a high concentration of high-professional leaders in any one area? How can you prepare these groups for the mobility of a global bench? Is part of the leadership program at your organization the acceptance of the fact that a leadership position could take a person anywhere in the organization’s entire system?
With these factors in play, you should also consider how you’ll give the leadership pool a “local” feel even though it’s not a local group. For example, you may determine that actual cultural, business, and even language training may be necessary before a particular candidate can take a position in the leadership bench. With this type of training, in addition to the development program, a potential leader can take on “local” characteristics.
Another issue that comes along with the global leadership bench is the idea of how to label your leadership benches or pools. We are all familiar with high professional and high potential leaders, but do those labels “translate” to other cultures? Plus, if you’ve chosen to go business unit by business unit, do you truly want to label your leaders or do you just want to place them as people who will eventually take over management, executive, or other leadership roles within the organization?
Another challenge related to the leadership bench is how to coach from a global perspective, which we have touched on and will touch on again. Coaching or mentoring are very important aspects of a leadership development program. But these aspects can be made more difficult by the challenges of a global organization. Are you going to create a coaching network within the geographic locations, or are you going to use technology to extend coaching to all corners of your organization?
The challenge with creating a global leadership bench is making leaders mobile-or at least preparing them for mobility. If leaders are aware of the mobility requirement, you may be able to weed out those who are truly not interested in succession. On the other hand, and this goes back to labeling your benches, you may find that high professional leaders who are content staying where they are can be great contributors to the organization and its succession plan.
The next challenge in global leadership development is the creation of training and coaching, as well as the methods of design and delivery.