Global leadership is absolutely crucial in addressing the major challenges of our time, and Australia has a special advantage in nurturing innovation (you can find out why here). However, numerous companies in Australia are facing difficulties in cultivating global leaders (you can read about the reasons here).
As I shared in my last blog post, Professor Jay Conger of Claremont University said in 2013…
“Global leadership is not the next level of leadership but a different animal all together.”
Although these capabilities still hold value in today's world, they do not fully capture the unique challenges faced by individuals who aspire to become global leaders in Australia, nor do they align with the current context.
If I were to update Jay’s quote, I'd say:
“Global leadership is not the next level of leadership but a different animal all together, in another country, in a new era.”
In the world of multinationals, Australia is unique, accounting for 2 to 5% of global revenues and having a forgotten timezone, being 15,000 kilometres from global HQ, and little in common with its neighbouring countries in APAC, making it one of the most misunderstood markets. We are living in a new context with challenges such as systemic mistrust, new consumers, flexible working arrangements, talent management, generative AI, and disruptive technologies, global tensions surrounding recession, war, supply chains, and the world's climate crisis and sustainability. No wonder global leadership, which involves leading across geographic and cultural borders, is so challenging to develop. It may have seemed like a mythical creature a decade ago, but now it might seem like a unicorn with wings that can talk!
The good news is that we know plenty of flying talking unicorns in Australia, and it's a myth that global leadership from Australia is beyond mere mortals. In fact, the best global leaders are very much human, which is what makes them such great leaders. Assuming you're a human, then you can be a global leader too. However, it's worth noting that leadership isn't for everyone, and global leadership is possibly for even fewer people. But if you have the desire to make a difference and influence globally, we know how to get you there. If the idea of being globally exposed and influencing across geographies and cultures freaks you out, don't worry, there are plenty of careers that are entirely locally focused. We need people to do those jobs too. The key is to know which pathway you want to take. As Zig Ziglar said,
"If you aim for nothing, you'll probably get it."
It's better to have a plan to pursue a global leadership pathway or stay domestically focused than to sit on the fence.
Even if you choose a more domestic role within a multinational environment, understanding the challenges that your bosses and peers in global roles face is critical to your performance. As one of my old managers used to say,
"What interests my boss fascinates me."
Ultimately, we are at a crossroad. One direction leads us to a world of abundance with thriving energy, water, education, health, well-being, and growth, while the other leads us to oblivion. Such a dichotomy is no doubt too simplistic. However, as cyber-punk novelist William Gibson said,
"The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed."
Currently, some people experience abundance daily, while others live in scarcity. Global leadership is key to promoting a future where abundance is more evenly distributed. The tide can rise for all, and this can be a positive sum game for all living things and the planet. If you share this dream, working for a foreign-owned multinational in Australia is one of the best places to be. Let's make it a reality together.