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characteristics of a successful global business leadership

Getting the big picture:
characteristics of a successful global business leadership

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As our digital space and the capabilities of advanced technology continue to evolve, our physical world continues to shrink. Companies are increasingly expanding their reach across international borders to decrease costs, increase market value, and make an impact across the globe. While running an international business is easier than ever before, it also presents a unique challenge to those seeking to run them. For ambitious professionals, this means confronting singular challenges, knowing how to track and create results, and spearheading projects in often unprecedented situations. Yet what exactly is required to become the head of a global organization, what are the characteristics of successful global business leadership?

“We want to be led by our mission and to embed our values throughout the world.”

— Angela Ahrendts, former Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple

Global business leadership


Qualifications for becoming an International leader

Expertise + Strategic vision

There are a number of ways in which a professional can be considered qualified for an advanced position within an international organization. Those with an expert amount of technical knowledge can, with the proper preparation, be qualified to take on certain leadership roles. For example, an expert microchip designer could be aptly qualified to take on a managerial position within a global tech organization. 

But expertise in the sector in question isn’t the only requirement to take on a leadership role — a propensity for guiding employees, the ability to make hard decisions (sometimes on short notice), and a larger strategic vision are all vital elements to being an effective leader. 

Top 12 skills for a successful global business leadership

So, in order to conduct international business effectively, you need to acquire a set of skills that help you work across national and subnational boundaries to push your business forward. Those skills include the following:

  • Overseas experience
  • Effective communication
  • Deep self-awareness
  • Sensitivity to cultural diversity
  • Humility
  • Lifelong curiosity
  • Cautious honesty
  • Global strategic thinking
  • Patiently impatient
  • Well-spoken
  • Good negotiator
  • Presence

To learn more about leadership, you can read the book from James Clawson: “Level three leadership: getting below the surface”

Obstacles preventing International business leadership

A global environment

The modern international leader must constantly be aware of both the national and the global environment that they live in. The speed of digital communication means that information is available to anyone with just the tap of a finger — and new policies, trends, and management strategies are developed and spread faster than ever before. 

The bureaucracy

A competent leader is not only aware of the complex inner-workings of project management systems, but is also familiar with the administrative bureaucracy and relevant legal procedures for every aspect of their company. Delving head-first into a directorial or managerial position can be a daunting task for someone who is not already familiar with these elements. 


Being a good leader also means being enterprising, understanding how to strategize on a medium- to long-term basis, and having a sense of fiscal responsibility towards an organisation’s financial assets. Lastly, a leader in an international environment must have a keen cultural awareness for social-political dynamics, both within their office and when dealing with new potential clients. 

Studying for leadership positions: a new norm

Many people aren’t already equipped with all of the tools and knowledge before taking on a job such as CEO or Vice President. While all of these qualities could possibly be learned on the job, most companies are looking for candidates who have an official attestment to their skills. 

Developing foundational blocks in leadership skills and strategies through a formal learning programme both reduces the risk of burn-out or oversight, and provides candidates with more competitive profiles in the job market. 

Full-time university programmes are comprehensive in their education offerings, yet they require a complete time and economic commitment. Oftentimes students find themselves having to leave their current career path in order to focus on their studies, making an investment into medium- and long-term plans, but foregoing immediate opportunities.

Taking learning to a new level

Online schooling, on the other hand, provides young career professionals and specialist developers alike the ability to study for leadership positions without giving up their current job. 

They are often offered at a lower price point than their in-person counterparts, and their digital nature makes them more accessible to students from around the world, allowing for a truly international environment. 

EDHEC’s elite, globally recognised programmes offer a quality education that is both accommodating to your work and family schedule, and designed to be completed entirely online. 

Experienced professors provide interactive, case-based material in small group settings. The Master of Science in International Business Management is perfectly equipped to provide the strategy development and top-tier communication techniques required to become a leader in a global environment. 

For those who enjoy guiding team members into a shared vision, making the shift into international business leadership is an ideal career move towards making a greater impact on the global environment in any sector. 

By studying for a leadership position, candidates make themselves more competitive in the current job market, meld their existing expertise with the newest innovations in leadership practices, and assure themselves higher positions and earnings potential for the future. 

Learn more about how advanced education can provide more career opportunities, and the options available to young professionals and seasoned experts alike, with EDHEC’s comprehensive distance learning programmes.

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