Leadership is an art, that can be problematic under even ideal circumstances, and management is always a challenge. Globalization merely makes each more of a challenge.
How does globalization impact on management and leadership differently from any other situation?
Effective planning is essential for any organization. Leadership must establish the visionary path for the organization, and it is up to management to ensure that plans stay on track. In a closed environment, except for establishing the vision, this can be a relatively simple process because the variables affecting implementation can be predicted and tend to fall into relatively easy to identify categories. Globalization greatly complicates this process. Take, for instance, a company that manufactures a product that is planning an expansion of its product line. Establishing a clear vision in a closed market is a matter of understanding the environment and customers, and for a company that has been in business for a while, this should be a fairly simple matter. When globalization enters the picture, the process of determining proper direction is complicated by the diverse environments and customer base that must be taken into account. In the same manner, management implementation has to balance a large number of diverse and sometimes competing factors.
Motivating and managing personnel is always a juggling act, as leaders and managers have to adjust actions and policies to take into account such factors as ethnicity, gender, physical ability and the like. Globalization has created a workforce, especially in such industries as IT, that has added the cultural and language factors to the puzzle. Establishing personnel policies and procedures that takes all this into account requires a high degree of sensitivity and at times the Wisdom of Solomon. An example from a friend of mine who leads an organization comprised of Canadian and Zimbabwean workers will illustrate this. Because the organization is Canadian, it operates under that country’s regulations and laws. The challenge was brought home to my friend when she had an incident involving two Zimbabwean employees, a man and a woman, who got into an argument. The man, in anger, struck the woman. Under Canadian rules this was cause for sanction, which my friend applied. She immediately found herself with a revolt on the part of other male Zimbabwean employees who, in their culture, found her action excessive since it is felt that women are inferior to men and the man was right to discipline the woman by striking her. This is an extreme example, but it does show how complicated to deal with an international workforce with diverse cultural norms and ways of dealing with situations.
These are but two examples of how globalization impacts leadership and management in today’s increasingly globalized world. As my friend said to me when she was describing the aforementioned dilemma, “It ain’t my grandfather’s world anymore.”