Developing a Global Mindset for Leaders – the Interplay of Individual and Organisational Practices

Leaders with a global mindset are equipped with the managerial competence to address the increased strategic and cultural complexity of contemporary organisations (Kuada, 2016).

Emerging research emphasises that global mindset emanates from the managerial practices of individuals in combination with their organisational context (Reiche, Bird, Mendenhall, & Osland, 2017).

Professor Nielsen (Aalborg University) explores this notion by identifying the individual and organisational enablers that work in tandem to support global mindset. In doing so, this research creates an actionable ‘roadmap’ for firms who are seeking to drive global mindset capability development within their leaders and organisations.


This study aimed to explore individual managerial practices (actions and behaviors of the individual manager) and organisational practices (corporate-wide systems and processes) that enable global mindset development.


The researcher conducted a three-year case study of 200 middle managers in a medium sized Danish multi-national technical wholesaler, Solar A/S.

A series of rigorous research techniques were used to collect data:

  1. Participant observation of 200 managers at strategy seminars, meetings and leadership development programs.
  2. Participating observation which involved active participation in leadership development work with employees (e.g. facilitating workshops).
  3. Interviews with 25 middle managers.
  4. Archival research of meeting minutes, internal databases, intranet entries, and other company surveys.
Findings and implications for leaders:

The researchers identified four accelerators that provide both organisations and individuals with opportunities to enact managerial global mindset behaviours. This was based on verbatim quotes collected from participants through observation and interview.

  1. Strategic dialogue and co-creation. Access to and involvement in group-level decision-making enables strategic global mindset practices, when facing the local-global divide and supports organisational standardisation. Example: “We would like to have… cross-border workshops, where people with the same disciplines can talk to each other.”
  2. Interactional synergy. Voluntary involvement in communities of practices, allowing for global mindset practices such as cross-function and cross-country knowledge sharing. Example: “I think we should network more with our ‘colleague-competitors’ and try to learn from them.”
  3. Cohesion through imagination. Fostering the group feeling across borders and being cognisant of other languages and cultural barriers. Example: “The employer branding campaign increases the visibility of the fact that you are actually part of an international company, that you are part of a larger family.”
  4. Performance flexibility and mobility. Support of cross-border career opportunities and socialisation of newcomers, managerial and non-managerial employees. Example: ”I have created a map with pictures and names and telephone numbers… and job descriptions. So, if someone who works with pricing in Holland needs to talk to somebody who works with pricing in Norway that is already kind of established.”

This provides two key actionable insights for organisations and their leaders:

  1. Global mindset as a collective capacity. Global mindset is an interaction of individual behaviour with organisational processes and objectives, and is only connected to performance to the extent that it is enacted. By viewing the concept through this lens we are able to create an actionable roadmap for managers and organisations. Organisations should review their internal processes to align with accelerators that enable the enactment of a global mindset. Managers should seek to understand their part in global mindset development and emphasise practices across the organisation.
  2. Paying attention to the ‘local’ aspects of global practice. It is important to understand how “local” is integrated into the global mindset. Organisations and managers should appreciate the need for both corporate-wide compliance and standardisation, along with understanding local specificities and realities. This mix between local and global forces is central to securing and driving ongoing business strategy performance.

Kuada, J. (2016). Global mindsets: Exploration and perspectives. London: Routledge.

Reiche, B. S., Bird, A., Mendenhall, M. E., & Osland, J. S. (2017). Contextuailzing leadership: A typology of global leadership roles. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(5), 552-572.

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