With nearly 30 years as an HR professional working for multinational companies, I’ve observed that keeping current on global business conditions becomes paramount to success. Successful multinational leaders need to simultaneously handle both global and local events. Managers of different business units that have expanded internationally may adopt different leadership styles to remain competitive in a global economy. It is important to develop different leadership styles for different locations.
This usually requires a change from valuing only those at headquarters and instead empowering all employees, regardless of their location. According to Hersey and Blanchard, four leadership styles enable success: telling, selling, participating and delegating. Adjusting styles appropriately makes managing multinational locations more effective.
Providing Direction and Motivation
The democratic style is most prevalent in the United States, but leaders might have to adapt their style to different multinational locations, if the workforce is used to an autocratic leader instead. An autocratic leader is someone who tells people what to do, when to do it and how to do it. This works universally well in a crisis situation. However, a multinational leader who does well with this style in her home country may find it ineffective elsewhere. Employees may be uneasy about approaching authority figures with questions or concerns. This may lead to confusion and decrease productivity if the leader’s strategy doesn’t work well in other countries, for whatever reason. Similarly, motivational programs that reward individuals may be less successful in Asian countries, where collective effort is more highly valued.
Emerging countries may have complicated and overlapping regulations in employment law. Multinational companies need to be compliant with these regulations. A leader who takes a laissez-faire approach to managing teams, giving employees a great deal of autonomy, may need to ensure she complies with different rules than she has previously experienced regarding selecting and training employees.
Multinational leaders need to adjust to cultural differences. Observing proper social etiquette for the country where business is conducted can mean the difference between success and failure. If a leader is used to direct communication, confrontation, limited emotional attachment and decisiveness, she may find that treading more carefully may be appropriate. Valuing diversity and respecting local customs can help build prosperous business relationships.
A leader might need to change her style and develop partnership across boundaries. She may be reluctant to give control to employees in other countries.The ability to develop networks and delegate authority to subordinates in other nations helps get things done on a global level. Leaders with higher cultural awareness and emotional intelligence than others might be able provoke more innovation because they can form more cohesive teams. When a leader trusts her subordinates to do the right thing, she earns their trust in return. Democratic multinational leaders may make the final decision, but they include team members, local and global alike, in the decision making process. All team members tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction as a result. This improves productivity, as well.