Why global teams require exceptional leaders

Leading any team is hard work. Here are ten ways in which a global team puts even greater demands on the team leader.

  1. Expectations are higher. You are not competing against the talent pool in your local office. You are competing against a global talent pool. Everyone will quietly be asking whether you really are the best person for the job.
  2. No one knows you. In your local office, you come with a track record which should give you credibility. On a global team, no one knows about you. You have to earn trust and respect all over again.
  3. Communication is harder. “Many people communicate, few people connect”. Just because you have sent an email explaining what you want, that does not mean that your team either understands or agrees to what you want. They need the context which comes from talking it through. Technology enables communication, not trust.
  4. Misunderstanding arise more easily. People across the world think and act differently. “Yes” can mean anything from “It will definitely be done” to “no way”, depending on context.
  5. Performance management is harder. You can see when team members are struggling or coasting; it is easy to have discrete conversations about performance and expectations. It is hard to monitor people you do not see.
  6. Trust is more important and more elusive. Trust is vital because you need people to make decisions and act the right way when you are asleep: not everything can wait for your working or waking hours. But building trust remotely is an art form which is yet to be discovered.
  7. Goals are more ambiguous. The team leader is often the person who has to balance the needs of the global firm and local requirements: these are often irreconcilable.
  8. Decision making is tough. Different cultures have different expectations about what fair process looks like and how much they want to be involved in a decision. But if you are seen to favour one nationality over another, you store up problems.
  9. It is hard to be omni present. Someone, somewhere will want you 24/7. You have to create a rhythm that is manageable personally and is effective for the team.
  10. You need a new skill set. Command and control does not work well at a distance. You need high level influencing skills, and political skills to work stakeholders and decision makers.

But there is good news in this. If you can lead a global team, you can lead any team. It is a great learning experience.

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