The rules of the leadership game have changed–globally. In 2012, we saw startling numbers of incumbent Prime Ministers and Presidents losing elections throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In fact, U.S. President Barack Obama stands among only 3 incumbents who have been re-elected to office in 2012, along with Peter Charles Paire O’Neill, President of Papua New Guinea and Lt. Colonel Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela. The corporate sector has also seen significant changes in leadership with the appointment of new Presidents and CEO’s at several major corporations, including Yahoo, Inc. and Barclays PLC. It is clear that voters and shareholders alike perceive that their expectations have not been met, and that a new rule has emerged in the leadership game. The rule is Global Leadership and to win the game, leaders must have the capacity to effectively engage cross-sector stakeholders – locally, regionally, and internationally.
There are varied reasons that account for this worldwide changing of the guard. For Heads of State, some political pundits attribute election victories to a lack of economic confidence and the absence of an appealing policy alternative for governments. To win the old game of leadership, Prime Ministers or Presidents needed only to build political coalitions for Election Day. Today, leaders need to inspire confidence, build trust, and persuade voters that they have the capacity to lead the country forward by providing the core quality of life factors. Voters want a feeling of personal safety and security; the ability to provide quality food and housing for their families; solid government institutions and infrastructure, such as roads and utilities; and good paying jobs that allow them to live a decent quality of life. The “Global States of Mind: New Metrics for World Leaders Report”, which was released on October 12, 2012 by Gallup in partnership with the Meridian International Center, confirms that these are still the quality of life factors which remain important to voters and stakeholders.
However, the challenge remains of how private and public sector leaders, especially those in emerging countries, consistently meet the growth expectations of their constituents in an increasingly competitive global marketplace? The answer is Global Leadership–a kind of leadership that solves complex social, economic, and political problems by leveraging the opportunities of an interconnected world.
Global Leaders reach across geographic, cultural, and sector boundaries to create value for all stakeholders. They collaborate with public and private sector partners outside of their markets in order to develop innovative new strategies and mechanisms for growth, which are not immediately available within their markets.
Global Leaders are also known for measuring their country’s success by new wellbeing economics. In addition to traditional fiscal and development indicators, such as GDP and unemployment rates, these forward-looking leaders use performance indicators, which measure the aspirations of their stakeholders. Their focus is on understanding the future people really want and fulfilling that vision.
On October 12, 2012, Meridian International Center, along with our partners, Gallup and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, hosted the Global Leadership Summit in Washington DC. At this Summit, top international CEO’s–David M. Rubenstein, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, The Carlyle Group; Jay L. Johnson, Chairman & CEO, General Dynamics Corporation; and Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO, FedEx joined Nirupama Rao, Ambassador of India to the U.S. and Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the U.S. to explore the importance of collaboration between businesses and governments in maintaining global competitiveness. The leaders also discussed positioning in key markets as a strategy for successfully competing in the global arena.
In referring to his own company, Frederick W. Smith said that, “FedEx today is very central to the way the world works. We take a lot of pride in delivering medical devices such as the defibrillator or helping to keep the big retailers functioning. Our services have profound implications for the world economy and get us a ringside seat at virtually everything.” FedEx became a multi-national giant because it recognized the need for individuals, communities, corporations and governments to exchange products and services, quickly and effectively; and leveraged the opportunities of an interconnected world.
Meridian International Center understands this new global leadership imperative and has launched the Meridian Global Leadership Institute and the Global Leadership Development Program, a unique series of training programs for private and public sector leaders that are designed to teach leaders the critical competencies that are required to succeed in an ever-changing world. The dynamic curricula address strategies for corporate engagement, expansion and success in overseas markets. The program also provides a forum in which government and corporate leaders can openly share ideas on how they navigate the complex interplay of political, social, and cultural forces in order to succeed in the global marketplace.
There really is no single magical rule for successful leadership in the global landscape. However, there is a winning combination: the use of public diplomacy strategies to collaborate and build a high-impact network of partners around the world, and a focus on fulfilling the vision for a better quality of life which stakeholders now hold for themselves, their communities, and their countries. Consider this the checkmate used by leaders who succeed in this new game of Global Leadership.
Ambassador Stuart W. Holliday is President and CEO of Meridian International Center, a leading nonpartisan public diplomacy institution in Washington, DC. Ambassador Holliday served as a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for special political affairs from 2003 to 2005.
Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian, courtesy of the Meridian International Center.
This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier’s January/February 2013 print edition.