The extensive cultural variations described in this book make a strong argument for global leaders who possess cultural awareness, intercultural competence, and global knowledge relating to culture. Culture, however, is not the only contextual determinant that forms the Petri dish that creates global leadership (GL). The organizing principle for this chapter is the linkage among various components of the global context, the resulting GL sensemaking and competencies, and their development. Based on this framework, we review the limited empirical literature on global leadership and its development and identify the pathways for future research.
Global leadership has achieved a salient position in the international management literature during the past decade. The need to understand the nature of global leaders has emerged with the increasing internationalization and globalization of firms in which the dependence on vendors, employees, outsourced work, and customers from other countries is now seen as critical. Gunnar Hedlund (1986, p. 18) envisaged the current reality of global business in the mid-1980s:
A radical view concerning globality is that we are witnessing the disappearance of the international dimension of business. For commercial and practical purposes, nations do not exist and the relevant business arena becomes something like a big unified “home market.”
Similarly, global leaders deal with employees and stakeholders from a range of cultures and seldom have the luxury of understanding each culture in depth. Therefore, we suggest that they are forced to develop meta-level cultural skills, which we will discuss later, that go beyond those required of most domestic or expatriate leaders.