What does it take to be a great leader in an increasingly globalized business environment?

It’s an important question because today’s challenges tend to defy the simple solutions of old. From fast-paced markets to capricious consumer trends, business leaders must deal with a host of issues while never losing sight of long-term goals. It’s a tough job, and one that poses both huge risks and rewards, which is why it is absolutely vital for the next generation of business leaders to embrace the following qualities:

1. Appreciation for complexity

The world’s a maddeningly complex place. Remember the old saying “Think global, act local”? As businesses grow larger and expand across borders, leaders must contend with a myriad of conflicting and complicated forces, like company departments, regional branches, internal company procedures, government regulations, tax structures, diverse cultures and traditions.

Pic: University of Bath

The best and most effective leaders resist easy, one-size-fits-all solutions to complex problems. Something that works in New York may not work in New Delhi, for example; a popular product in Europe could cause cultural backlash in the Middle East. Adapting business models and marketing pitches to fit local environments is mandatory in this day and age.

Also, managing organizations that span large geographical areas can be somewhat of a challenge. Firms become less nimble and more inundated with bureaucracy as they grow. Effective leaders take time to organize businesses based on feedback from local leaders and front-line staff, keeping organizations as flat and responsive as possible. Only a person who recognizes organizational complexity can begin to make it simpler and more efficient.  

2. Love of innovation

Effective leaders embrace and push for change. Thanks to increasingly competitive markets and more discerning consumers, businesses that don’t innovate fall behind – it’s as simple as that. Something you’re doing now may be a massive success, but in two to three years’ time, it could lead to declining market shares and flagging morale.

Leaders must realize there are always better ways of reaching customers and consumers, better ways of communicating between departments, better ways of motivating employees. Innovations, large and small, save costs, increase profits, and publicly reflect the organization’s commitment to growth and customer well-being. If consumers and customers feel your business isn’t growing and adapting with them, they’re likely to shift their attention elsewhere.

Pic: University of Warwick

3. Clear vision and empathy

The key to managerial and business success is knowing what you want, formulating a clear plan to get there, and empathizing with subordinates tasked with implementing that plan. Good leaders are able to provide employees with detailed plans and instructions to remove any sort of ambiguity and ensure they know the reason behind everything they’re doing. This avoids mistakes and signals to employees that they’re valued. It’s also important that, for the sake of morale, leaders set realistic goals for workers and seek to understand the challenges they face. If workers need more time and resources, leaders should consider and act accordingly.

4. Encourage motivation

Employees are every company’s most important assets, therefore it’s crucial to keep them motivated and inspired. That can be difficult to do these days as companies grow larger and sometimes more impersonal, but effective leaders do all they can to mitigate those trends. A simple ‘thank you’ phone call or personal e-mail from a CEO in Tokyo to an employee in Jakarta can work absolute wonders for morale. Leaders may also see fit to enquire after sick employees or praise high performers in group emails. These simple but powerful gestures can make a mountain of difference, increasing productivity and staff retention rates.

Pic: University of Exeter

These are just some of the essential traits needed in today’s international business leaders, all of which taught in the UK’s top business schools. The UK is renowned for its outstanding courses in business and management, thanks to the academic quality, investment, and industry links of its universities. Some of the best are:

The University of Bath School of Management is one of the foremost business and management schools in the United Kingdom. The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016 ranked Bath 1st for Business studies and 5th for Accounting in Finance and The Complete University Guide 2017 ranked Bath 1st for Marketing, 2nd for Business and Management Studies and 2nd for Accounting and Finance. Part of a research-intensive university, its research efforts were ranked 8th in the UK for business and management studies by the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

Students can look forward to a diverse international experience including study tours, a strong global alumni network, and industry-relevant insights thanks to the school’s many strategic partnerships with organisations around the world. The university itself features excellent academic, sports and social facilities, a good community atmosphere, a safe campus, and strong connections with industry – leading it to be ranked 1st in the UK for student satisfaction by The Times Higher Education (THE) Student Experience Survey 2015.

Pic: University of Bath

Birmingham Business School, at the University of Birmingham, is a top-tier school that puts business in context and people at its heart. It is renowned for its particularly strong MBA programmes, which are delivered in a variety of formats, including full-time, executive and online.

The world-class research and teaching provides insights, ambitions and skills to shape better, simpler and more sustainable business strategies. Consistently ranked within global rankings tables, Birmingham Business School, along with just a handful of the world’s business schools, holds the gold standard of ‘triple-crown’ accreditation from the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), AMBA (Association of MBAs) and EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System). The triple-crown accreditation is a hallmark of excellence of the research and teaching.

CEO Magazine’s 2015 MBA rankings, placed Birmingham Business School’s MBA 7th in the world and 3rd in Europe.  The 2015 Economist ‘Which MBA’ rankings saw the School achieve placements of 14th in the UK and 30th in Europe. In the 2015 Global Financial Times MBA rankings, the MBA achieved a global position of 92, with a ranking of 12 out of those UK Business and Management Schools that made it into the FT’s rankings. The University is incredibly diverse with over 5,000 international students from more than 150 countries and an impressive 31% of its academic staff from overseas.

Birmingham Business School is committed to making a difference: by enabling graduates to add value throughout their careers; by providing superior business intelligence to their partners; and by focusing research on the key challenges that face the economy and society.

Pic: University of Birmingham

Warwick Business School (WBS), a component of the University of Warwick, is among the most respected and selective business schools in the world – The Economist, for example, picked the school’s Executive MBA as the best in the UK and placed it among the world’s top 20.

Warwick emphasises an experiential and interactive approach to learning, encouraging the development of practical and critical thinking skills that can be readily applied in the workplace and beyond. The school’s strong mixture of world-class scholars and real world experts ensures students get the best of both theory and practice.

The Nottingham University Business School, part of the University of Nottingham, offers students world-class academic and research expertise, modern facilities, and an unparalleled global network of industry links. Its faculty includes leading researchers in their respective fields, and its centres and institutes regularly work with global businesses and regional enterprises.

The 2015 QS World University Ranking by Subject places Nottingham among the top 100 for Business and Management, as well as Accounting and Finance. The university itself is ranked in the top 1 percent of universities in the world by QS World University Rankings.

Pic: Lancaster University

The Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), a faculty at Lancaster University, is another prestigious UK business school. In 2016, the Financial Times ranked its full-time MBA programme as 4th in the UK and 35th in the world. The publication ranked it 1st in the UK for salary increase, and 6th in the world for value for money.

Offering a truly international experience, its Lancaster campus hosts students and staff from over 150 countries, and boasts a network of 30,000 alumni all around the world.

The University of Exeter Business School, part of the University of Exeter, offers world-class business education in the beautiful South West of England. In 2016, The Times and The Sunday Times ranked Exeter 11th in Business, 10th in Accounting and Finance, and 12th for Economics, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16 placed the University among the top 100 universities in the world.

It doesn’t hurt that Exeter is located in one of England’s most charming and beautiful cities, offering a perfect balance of urban, countryside and coast.  

Main image courtesy of University of Bath