Leadership development, like traditional training and development, faces traditional challenges such as distance, culture, diversity, design and delivery methods, along with budgets and workforces. We are going to take a look at the challenges you may face when implementing a global leadership development program, starting with one of the most obvious challenges: distance. If you are a local organization, you probably won’t deal with distance. But consider those organizations that have members spread out over a wide geography, and even across international boarders. Developing their leadership program may be a little more difficult, starting with the distance that separates them.

Any leadership development program is going to require regular meetings and training, not to mention networking and coaching. So what can you do to truly train leaders ‘at a distance’? We will discuss the development and design of global leadership development training in an upcoming installment. But before you get to that point, you must think about how you’ll bring that group together. In today’s environment, training can be delivered in many different ways, including online and via web conference. The first challenge is creating a program that lends itself to a distance format. If your organization is spread out in different countries or geographic areas, think about the budget strain that may occur if you try to bring your leadership pool together on a regular basis. Also consider the differences in time-the pool in the U.S. may be at work when the pool in Europe or the Middle East is heading home for the day. One way to bridge distance is to offer your informational training online and then have the pool meet to discuss via a web conference. Blogs and discussion boards are also helpful to groups who are separated by distance or time.

Along those same lines, consider how you’ll bring the pool together for meetings, networking, and coaching. Coaching is probably the easiest distance challenge: coaches can be chosen based on their proximity to the pool, making one-on-one, face-to-face sessions possible. Even networking meetings can be scheduled to occur between group members who are in the same geographic areas. But to make the program truly global, you must figure out a way to mix the entire pool at various points during the program. Web conferencing is a good way to do this. If the pool is small enough, the discussion can occur via webcam. If not, a web conference with interactive features will work. The idea here is to be prepared for the distance challenge before you even start the program.

Distance can also create a gap in culture. This is most obvious between groups in different countries. Obviously the way the organization does business in the U.S. is going to be different than the way it operates in Asia or the Middle East. Your program has to bridge this cultural difference, in both education and network. When you develop your program, be sure to include pieces that explain the difference between the business and organizational cultures. Even if leaders don’t move across the cultures, each person in the pool will benefit from knowing how the rest of the organization functions.

Also related to cultural distance is distance in coaching. You may be able to provide coaches in the same geographic areas, but does this make your program truly global? For example, after the leadership pool progresses, you may want to assign a coach in Japan to a high-potential leader in the U.S. How can you bring the two together without paying for the airfare and accommodation that would come with that meeting? Again, phone, web conference, and webcam can be just as effective. In a day and age when even preliminary job interviews are being held over the phone or via webcam, certainly a coaching session can occur this way, as well.

A global leadership development program will require your skill and thought in several areas. Distance is only the first, but most obvious challenge. Before you embark on the program, analyze the distance between the members of your organization on the high level. This way, you’ll be prepared to move forward with your program ready for the challenge of distance. Next, we will discuss another aspect of distance: the concept of leadership across cultures.