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Global Leadership Skills for the 21st Century

By Raisa Belyavina

“Global literacy is the new leadership competence required for business success. To be globally literate means seeing, thinking, acting and mobilizing in culturally mindful ways.”1

There is no question that many businesses thrive due to their investment in cutting-edge skills and technology, ranging from employing savvy social media experts to professionals with advanced knowledge in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). What is not often heralded as a component of success of multinational companies is the global mindedness of the company and its leaders. Technology is among the fastest growing sectors, and includes giants such as Apple and Google, both of which are renowned for developing the human capital potential of their employees and enhancing the lives of their consumers. For companies like Apple and Google, growth in an era of globalization means interacting with global markets and with people all around the world, from the largest metropolises to the smallest villages. For company leaders, it means leading across cultural and global boundaries.

So what are the skills necessary to be a global leader in the 21st century? Today, global literacy skills drive business. Yes, technical skills are key - they drive innovation and invention. But it is global literacy and cross-cultural competency that determines global success.  As Robert Rosen and Patricia Digh (2000) suggest, cultural competency for leadership is a key lever for success. To be globally literate means to see, think, act and mobilizing in culturally mindful ways.


Diversity of global cultures is vast and meaningful. In a globally interconnected world, cultural identity has become more salient for people rather than less so. As people join global online communities, retaining individuality and preserving native culture has become as important as ever. Global leaders who are able to appreciate this and to discern differences and identify commonalities in human behavior across virtual and local communities will find links between their products or services and the people they wish to employ and to serve.


Seeing “globally” is the first step to becoming a global leader. The next step is thinking methodically about global diversity. Global leaders are those who consider the work practices and family values of their employees around the world. They also think about the versatility and potential impact of their products and services across different contexts and continents.


Culturally competent leaders become culturally confident leaders once they are able to translate their observations and their thinking into action.  Leaders who are globally literate can problem-solve with multifaceted and targeted business acumen. They can also see global and local opportunities – around the world. To be a global leader is to act with a global conscience and with international awareness.  


People are more interconnected now than at any other time in history. Social media has made it possible to interact instantaneously with citizens from around the world but has also had the impact of isolating many people who increasingly spend more time with technology and less time interacting directly with people. Global leaders know the power and potential of mobilizing people online and offline. Global companies and the people who lead them mobilize potential by investing in their own employees and in their business model and find creative ways to mobilize people around the world to partake in the myriad of opportunities available in the 21st century.

To develop your global leadership skills, click here or call (855) 841-2843 to speak with the Admissions office to learn about Manhattan College’s online master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.

1-Robert Rosen and Patricia Digh, 2001
Accessed on [http://www.thierryschool.be/solar-system/starship-II/artemis/8AbraTefadu.pdf]