Global Literacies: Lessons on Business Leadership and National Cultures
Robert Rosen, Patricia Digh, Marshall Singer, and Carl Phillips

Summary by Lydia Morris Brown, Business Book Summaries

The worst thing for adults in the 21st century is being illiterate about the world. To fully participate in the global society, people need a common vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and a rich base of knowledge. Because cultural distinctions represent resources to learn from, opportunities to exploit, and differences to manage, people need to move beyond just comprehending language and come to a deeper understanding of self, customers, markets, and the cultures of the world.

Forward-looking companies understand that people are their only remaining competitive advantage. Thus, they mobilize people, relationships, and culture (the three key global assets), and they work hard to develop cultures of "globally literate " leaders at all levels. These leaders effectively develop their own potential and the potential of others, manage their own culture and the cultures of others, and cultivate collaborative relationships.

The 21st -century model of culture is comprised of four levels: world culture, national culture, business culture, and leadership culture. All four are vital, each interacts with the others, and leaders must learn from all of them.

World culture, which is shaped by the four dynamic forces of knowledge, technology, change, and globalization, sets the stage for doing business in the 21st century. It influences everyone, regardless of country, industry, or size of business.

Although the world is global, individual lives are local. Every country grapples with the same universal concerns: achieving economic success, protecting national security, celebrating customers, and promoting the quality of life for its citizens, but each responds to these concerns in its own unique way. Thus, globally literate leaders must use history, geography, economics, politics, religion, and psychology to understand the national dynamics of local markets around the world.

Every business, regardless of size, industry, or region, must answer the same questions to succeed: Where are we going (purpose)? How do we get there (plan)? How do we work together (networks)? What resources do we need (tools)? And, how do we measure success (results)? Most businesses also pursue the same goals -delighting customers, growing, and making a profit. Most businesses serve the same kind of stakeholders (shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, and the community). Yet, every company pursues these goals and serves its stakeholders in a way that is unique to itself and its country of origin. Moreover, each company has a unique culture, shaped by its history, its industry, the unique realities it faces, and its leader 's personality.

Finally, the most successful business leaders exhibit the universal leadership qualities of personal, social, business, and cultural literacy (i.e., "Global Literacies"). Although relevant to all business leaders, all put their own personal stamp on them, depending on where they live, work, or conduct business.

Globally literate leaders must first start with a picture of what success looks like, craft a social contract that shares the risk and responsibilities between employees and the company, develop a workforce of outcome thinkers, and build a culture of results. By aligning their vision and goals to strategies and success metrics, they can create alignment and value inside their businesses. Ultimately, however, globally literate leaders aren't successful unless they give something back to society. They must be economic leaders who value creating and distributing wealth. They must also be socially conscious and environmentally responsible.

In sum, 21st -century leaders strive to be culturally wise. They understand the external business environment and all its ramifications. They understand culture at many different levels (the worldview, the national perspective, the business environment, and the point-of-view of the leader). They also understand that each culture has two levels of analysis: what is universal to all people, businesses, and countries, and what is unique to each.

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