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The Nature of Global Leaders’ Work

Advances in Global Leadership

ISBN: 978-1-78714-699-0, eISBN: 978-1-78714-698-3

Publication date: 21 July 2017


Despite the need for effective global leaders on the part of business (McKinsey, 2012) and the growing body of empirical research related to the topic of global leadership (Osland, 2013a), very little is known about what global leaders actually do. How do they spend their time? In what kinds of activities are they involved? How do they communicate, coordinate, make decisions, and lead? How is their work similar to or different from that of domestic leaders? In this chapter, we respond to these questions by exploring the nature of global leaders’ work using an approach similar to Mintzberg (1973) in his classic book, The Nature of Managerial Work. We observed five global leaders from five different industries, each for 1 week, and compared our results with Mintzberg’s (1973). In addition, we conducted informal interviews and collected archival data. We content-analyzed the data using the conventions of grounded theory and identified 10 distinguishing characteristics of global leaders’ work. It is characterized by (1) multiple time zones and geographical distance; (2) long hours; (3) flexible schedules and fluid time; (4) dependence on technology; (5) time alone connected to others; (6) extensive travel; (7) functional expertise with global scope; (8) facilitation of information, advice, and action; (9) management of complexity; and (10) confrontation of risk. We conclude by discussing implications for future global leadership research.



Huesing, T. and Ludema, J.D. (2017), "The Nature of Global Leaders’ Work", Advances in Global Leadership (Advances in Global Leadership, Vol. 10), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 3-39.



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