Stephen Rhinesmith, a partner at Mercer Delta Executive Learning Center, has trained executives in 60 countries during his 40-year career. He has seen U.S. corporations evolve from their 1960s domestic focus to their desire today to find the best global ideas and talent. Along with David Dotlich and Peter Cairo, he is author of the 2006 book Head, Heart and Guts: How the World’s Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders. Rhinesmith recently spoke with Workforce Management staff writer Mark Schoeff Jr.
Workforce Management: What are the biggest challenges in global leadership?
Stephen Rhinesmith: There are three major issues that global leaders have to deal with today. One is managing the complexity of the emerging social/economic environment. The second is managing diversity. And the third is managing uncertainty. On the issue of complexity, leaders still need to have the same kind of intellectual capacity that they’ve always had to deal with strategy and to deal with analysis of [market] options. Global emotional intelligence … requires specialized knowledge about fundamental issues that separate the cultures.
WM: What is guts?
Rhinesmith: Guts is making clear decisions in uncertain situations because you have a clear set of values that enable you to have courage. Guts is learned through experience … by stretch assignments, sending people to places they are unfamiliar with and giving them support and an opportunity to grow.
WM: What is an example of heart?
Rhinesmith: If you were leading anybody on 9/11, what they needed was heart. They needed empathy. They needed understanding. They needed human support because they were in shock. There were numerous stories of strong executives who literally wound up going to their offices and hiding from their employees because they didn’t know what to do.
WM: What are the leadership deficits in executives?
Rhinesmith: The two things most lacking in executives in the world today are the ability to coach effectively and the ability to deal with conflict. The really good organizations—GE, Intel, Pepsi—encourage conflict as a means of ensuring that they’re getting the right answers. A lot of leaders are ineffective because they’re trying to avoid conflict, and as a result they don’t get creativity [or] innovation.
WM: How should HR approach globalization?
Rhinesmith: Globalization from an HR perspective is to take the best people in the world and put them in the job for which they’re most qualified, regardless of nationality. There’s a mistake in the profession that going global means you hire locals to run local businesses. But in fact, that’s a multinational approach, not a global approach. The balance between expatriate and local talent is going to be an interesting evolution. Some countries have less tolerance for foreign managers.
Workforce Management, February 26, 2007, p. 9 -- Subscribe Now!