The last few decades have seen increased global mobility and increasing levels of international trade that are encouraged by agreements and treaties between countries. This environment of continuous change has led to greater workforce diversity and innovative organisational forms. I have personally witnessed many changes in Greece and the current economic crisis has meant that many people in Greece have turned towards foreign markets.
Observing the pace of change, I have come to realise that leading in this new ‘globalised’ environment calls not only for business acumen and knowledge of your international partners, but also the ability to be creative in forming flexible organisations and to capable of managing these effectively. Although by no means the only consideration of the international manager, the leadership of people is key and of particular interest to me as I embark on International Management.
Although we may think of the international manager as one that packs his/her bags and sets off for overseas assignments, international management is in fact, all around us. There are undoubted challenges presented to the expatriate manager that involve adapting to a new environment , dealing with local cultures and communicating with a local workforce, but increasingly these challenges present themselves to all managers – even those that never leave their home country.
Indeed, I believe that international management can take place at many levels, even within one’s own country. What Adler (1997: 127) describes as ‘domestic multiculturalism’ means that even locally we are faced with managing diverse backgrounds and cultures. Greece, as an example of a small and previously quite homogeneous nation, now has large immigrant communities that have become integrated into Greek society. The US is built on the multicultural backgrounds of its citizens and continues to actively encourage immigration from other countries around the world. What this means is that both domestically and internationally we need to be ‘international’ managers.
But how do we manage this diversity domestically and internationally? Bird (2013: 90) suggests that global leaders require the following competencies: “Cross-cultural Communication, Interpersonal Skills, Valuing People, Empowering Others and Teaming Skills.” Bearing in mind what is noted above, it occurs to me that all of these could easily be applied in a domestic environment too. Bird’s view makes sense to me and I seek an understanding of these ideas through my MSc although would expect to develop the competences in practice when I begin my career.
Of all the changes that have taken place in the last few decades perhaps the most significant is the transformation in information technology. This has had a tremendous impact on me and the way I communicate with others, but it also has major repercussions for International Management. New alternative organisational designs are now possible such as the virtual organisation, offering opportunities for more flexible international relationships. In the virtual organisation managers can take advantage of employee skills in far flung locations without being physically present, communicating through e-mail and teleconferencing. Here empowered teams are at the forefront and offer far more flexible alternatives to traditional hierarchical organisational forms (Maznevski and Chui, 2013).
However, all teams of whatever nature must be managed to achieve optimum results. Global virtual teams, distinguished from other teams by their composition and geographical dispersion, present greater challenges for the international manager, particularly in areas such as forming relationships and communicating effectively across time and space. Virtual teams are organisations of the future and understanding how they are best managed will be an increasingly important requirement for the international manager.
Adler, N (1997) International dimensions of organizational behavior South Western: Cincinnati
Bird, A (2013) ‘Mapping the content domain of global leadership competences’ in Mendenhall, M.E. et. al (2013) – Global leadership: research practice and development Routledge: New York pp80-96
Maznevski, M. and Chui, C (2013) ‘Leading global teams’ in Mendenhall, M.E. et. al (2013) – Global leadership: research practice and development Routledge: New York pp141-162