How to work in an international team
Even before the pandemic reshaped our world, the way that we work was being fundamentally changed by technology.
Perhaps the biggest change is this: for the first time, many of us are now working remotely as part of teams that cross not just time zones, but international borders.
This has significant implications, not least how leaders manage their teams. How do you make sure you connect with your team, and correctly identify their needs and challenges? How do you motivate - like a leader rather than a boss - with each individual, when you're not sharing physical space with them?
Together with the mobile-first leadership institute, Valar, we identify the key ideas that anyone leading a team in 2022 needs to understand.
A wide world of leaders
While everyone has their own idea of what makes a good leader, there are also commonly understood perceptions of leadership qualities within different cultures.
One need only look at the differing perceptions of good leadership across Western Europe to understand just how widely leadership styles can differ from country to country.
In Germany, for instance, a study of hundreds of middle managers identified a set of common qualities that defined a good leader. These included a strong focus on performance, high participation within their teams and the granting of autonomy, dependent on results. That is to say, a good German leader was seen to be working alongside their team, offering flexibility as long as performance was good. Pragmatism, above all, is considered an ideal leadership quality.
In contrast, the Italian view of leadership was shown by one study to be one of high ‘power-distance’ - ultimate authority comes from above and is accepted by teams. Personal charisma is valued more highly, and behaviour or activities that could leave a leader open to failure are avoided. Uncertainty is not accepted and, historically, masculinity may be perceived a prized attribute. Strength is what Italian workers see as the bedrock of leadership.
In the Netherlands, the idea of a strong, charismatic leader who exerts power downwards is one that is avoided, for a number of historical reasons. The Dutch see good leaders as those there to support and motivate their workers towards effective performance. They are organisers and project managers more than they are a captain, ‘steering the ship’.
The further one goes across the globe, the more variation one encounters. The Chinese perception of a good leader is grounded in deference to superiority and age, whereas leadership found across most of the African continent is more centered around humanist principles, for instance.
What does this mean for anyone leading an international team? Essentially, it means that one style of leadership won’t be effective in managing everyone. These cultural differences mean that your team members won’t respond in the same way, to the same approach, leading to uncertainty and misunderstandings.
A strong grounding in the basic principles of effective international leadership and cross-cultural communication is utterly essential to build a working environment that embraces all notions of leadership - a specific focus of the Valar program.
The growing importance of 'soft skills'
Another focus of the Valar program is the application of leadership through and with 'soft skills' - qualities such as dependability, resilience and negotiation skills, all of which can be learned. As the workplace becomes more connected, and many tasks become automated, it is these skills that will become 'the future of work'. When technical skills become largely obsolete due to technological progress, it is the ability to work effectively with others that will prove more useful.
The most effective means of developing these 'soft skills' is through real life application within teams. This requires a great degree of communication skills and dedication, and a cottage industry of trainers have emerged in the last few years to impart these skills.
Setting Valar apart in this instance is their mobile-first program built around the study and analysis of real-life workplace situations. Valar students are encouraged to not only draw upon their own experiences in resolving scenarios, but discuss them with their colleagues, seeking other perspectives.
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The first step towards leadership
For those wanting to become the effective workplace leaders of tomorrow, managing broad international teams across the globe, education is the path forward.
Valar Institute is a division of Quantic School of Business and Technology, the highly selective graduate school with a student and alumni network of over 15,000. Valar's MBA in Management and Leadership and Executive MBA in Strategic Leadership are equipping rising stars and seasoned professionals with a cutting-edge education to help them navigate the complexities of a more remote, global workforce
Not only does Valar offer outstanding teaching that draws on the latest in leadership research, but the material is offered in a way that complements your career - as a mobile-based program, it is inherently flexible and built for busy individuals . Built on the same platform as Quantic it uses the same tested learning strategies to guide you through the complete program in less than a year, fitting around your work schedule.
Valar participants will also be exposed to a world of fresh perspectives through their alumni networks, which reinforce the key learnings undertaken during the course. Optional conferences and networking events reinforce collaboration and communication skills additionally.
As the way that we work fundamentally changes, and management of teams comes under more scrutiny than ever before, there’s never been a better time to learn how to lead.
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