Take a quick look at the top 10 companies on the Fortune Global 500 list — with combined average revenues of $371.31 billion — and not only will you find companies that operate in a diverse set of verticals, but also companies that are comprised of teams in every major economic market on the planet, including the U.S., U.K., China, Japan, Brazil, France, Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, Canada, and the Netherlands.

So, how does a leader in any of these — or any other multinational organization — position themselves for unprecedented management results? Especially when it means working alongside such a diverse group of colleagues in such varied, different environments? The first step is realizing that there is a huge difference between an international leader and global leader.

The International vs. Global Leader

An international leader comes from — and self-identifies as being someone of — a particular country. A global leader, on the other hand, self-identifies as being a citizen of the world.

This doesn’t mean that they subvert international loyalties; we merely highlight this to spotlight the very different approach taken by different leadership-types to achieve management results.

It’s in this divide that a leader’s central locus is derived. Does your leadership identity arise from your home base — with your own specific norms and moirés — or do you cultivate your identity as someone who operates beyond borders and is driven by whatever is in best service to the enterprise?

Shared Purposed, Shared Identity

An international manager, on one hand, would think nothing about holding executive team meetings at times that fits his or her work schedule, simply because they would be blind to the constraints it poses to people in other geographies or even dismissive of them. A global leader, however, would arrange for these meetings to occur in turn at times convenient for the different geographies so as to share the constraints of the geographic spread, because they are of one purpose — united in a global identity.

And while this may sound obvious, we’ve seen some of the most sophisticated leaders within major companies around the world overlook the needed respect for these nuances. And because managing cultural nuances is critically important, we’ll explore the idea further in our next post: Global Leadership: Part II: Clarity of Mission.

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