Leading Effective Global Change: Three Design Imperatives That Support Success

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Contribution to a Book

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Advances in Global Leadership



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It is commonly believed that the complexities of different languages, cultures, histories, time zones, locations, governments, financial and legal systems contribute to the difficulty of leading global change. And yet, there is surprisingly little research at the intersection of global change and global leadership to guide practitioners. To fill this crucial gap, we provide a helpful framework for global leadership practitioners and scholars that emerged from a qualitative study of success factors in leading effective global change initiatives. We employed a comparative case study methodology to examine strategies and processes used by leaders of successful corporate and NGO global change projects. After comparing multiple cases of successful and unsuccessful global change initiatives in four organizations, we concluded that effective global change requires leaders to pay attention to 14 success factors categorized into three key design imperatives: (1) participatory process, (2) representative leadership, and (3) nested implementation. Participatory process consists of these success factors: (1) establish a clear vision, (2) ensure a collaborative start, (3) invite to the table as equals, (4) seek ideas from outside headquarters, (5) recognize and celebrate others, and (6) build systems for interdependence and accountability. Representative leadership includes: (7) create local leadership, (8) enable knowledgeable leadership, (9) empower willing leadership, and (10) develop bridge people. Nested implementation is composed of: (11) leverage formal communication channels, (12) attend to individual needs via interpersonal communication, (13) set global standards with local flexibility, and (14) test for regional credibility. We discuss these factors in light of existing literature and identify the implications and new horizons for global leadership theory and practice with respect to leading global change.


global change, Global leadership, global leadership effectiveness, multiple case study methodology, organization change and development, success factors


Global Innovation and Leadership