The world is a global village now. As such, exclusively practicing Western leadership thinking is like hiding in an anachronistic bubble inside an outdated echo chamber. To understand why we must move beyond this, let’s consider some facts.
Asia is currently the fastest-growing region in the world, encompassing economies such as China, Japan, India and South Korea. It accounts for around 60% of the global economy, has nominal GDP of approximately $34 trillion, and purchasing power parity of $70tn. What’s more, 4.5 billion people live in Asia – roughly 60% of the world’s population. The region also has the world’s youngest demographic of educated working people, and a growing middle class. Indeed, if we look at CK Prahalad’s 2004 book ‘The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ it’s clear that he foresaw the growing power of Asia’s economy – and the region’s transformation into the business centre of the world.
In recent times, Prahalad’s vision has come true. It is therefore clear that one cannot downplay the importance of understanding the needs of different markets across the world – or the danger of organisations using a single model to inform their approaches to leadership.
To free up their thinking, leaders must understand that relying upon the traditional, Western leadership framework alone is no longer sufficient in today’s world. Especially since the majority of companies operate globally. In fact, I contend that all three of the existing, Western leadership approaches – that is, the Universal, Normative and Contingency models – miss the mark, insufficiently explicating the construct and sense of leadership as it relates to global diversity.
For example, strategically managing a business that covers Asia, Africa, Europe and America would require a region- and country-specific approach for each economic area. Progressive organisations must accommodate cultural differences and varied approaches to leadership. It is crucial for managers and leaders to learn, understand and adapt to that end, and work hard to adopt the competencies required to prosper.
As time goes on, organisations are likely to be shaped by transnational teams which, for the most part, will work virtually. As such, leading and managing staff from different cultural backgrounds in a primarily virtual environment will become an everyday reality – and everyday challenge.
An understanding of cultural differences – as well as how those differences play out in interpersonal and group relationships – is no longer optional. It is now a critical tool for global leaders. As such, it is imperative for them to accommodate cultural differences and immerse themselves in studying varied approaches to leadership, changing leadership paradigms and cross-cultural management.
Don’t miss your FREE place with Dr Arun Sacher discussing the importance of thinking beyond Western leadership perspectives - and the dangers of not doing so.