The Leadership Change

    Since 1986 our retained executive search firm has located, recruited and integrated leaders into companies across the globe. As you can imagine, leadership skills that are demanded today are quite different then the leadership skills of yesterday.

    First and foremost is the change in technology. Leaders who fear technology (luddites) are dead in the water. The speed at which business gets done is the speed of light. Leaders must be able to navigate the Internet, send e-mails, coordinate online meetings, use BlackBerries, etc.

    Many readers will look at the aforementioned list, be stunned and ask, “Who doesn’t do those things?” The answer is many people. I have met leaders of companies who have their assistants print their e-mails. The Internet has allowed companies to research new product ideas, potential customers and gather pertinent information. Look at our presidential election; candidates campaign in new and different ways. They have MySpace, Facebook and YouTube pages to introduce their ideas to voters. Most CEOs of publicly traded entities disseminate information to their teams by online video or e-mail.

    The capability to deliver a leadership message to thousands of employees at once has changed the ability of leaders of companies to facilitate change and direct a shared mission. From a recruiting perspective, the Internet has broadened the capability of companies to recruit. Human Resource departments are using RSS feeds to get in front of candidates on their cell phones and PDAs, as well as searching online networking sites such as LinkedIn, Plaxo and others to locate potential employees with particular technical specifications. Good leaders must know where to find good talent.

    An old joke illustrates an important point. What do you call a person who can speak three languages? Tri-Lingual. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bi-Lingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.

    In the U.S. we are very proud of our success to the point of being obnoxious. It is true that a) we are the drivers of the global economy and b) the number one growing language on the planet is English; it is the language of business. However, the ability to communicate with people from other nationalities is a must for today’s leaders.

    We have been working with several large Tier One suppliers who look at language skills first; before degrees, before work history, before skill set. In the past, the small business owner or CEO in Detroit or Anytown U.S.A. could get by doing business only in the U.S. or at least with people mostly from the U.S. Today leaders don’t compete locally they compete globally. There is a more international approach to doing business whether from a language perspective or the perspective of interacting with people from different backgrounds.

    Leaders must understand the differences that exist when doing business with both suppliers and customers from Japan, the U.K. or South America. For example, in India it is considered impolite to pass the salt directly into someone’s hand at a meal. That could really affect a business deal. Right now the hottest markets are the BRIC’s (Brazil, Russia, India & China) and a good leader understands how to do business in these countries. What are you doing to track the hottest markets on the globe? I can assure you the best leaders are thinking globally not locally.

    Todd Hohauser is president of Harvey Hohauser & Associates, an executive search firm in Troy, Mich. He can be contacted at [email protected]