Global leaders are faced with an ever-changing and complex environment and need to continually adapt to the people and contexts in which they are operating and interacting (Alarico, 2017, p. 5). As it is difficult to determine one definition of leadership it is equally difficult to decide on one definition of global leadership, however Osland, Bird, Mendenhall, and Osland (2006) describe global leadership as a process of influencing the thinking, attitudes, and behaviors of a global community to work together synergistically toward a shared vision and common goals (p. 204).  This paper focuses on global leadership as well as domestic leadership to show the similarities and differences between the two forms of leadership.

Global Leadership

While globalization has many positive aspects to it, including bringing people together and making goods and services more accessible, there are numerous challenges to both the globalization concept and definition of what it means for leadership in general (Maranga, 2018, p. 53).  Global managers must be able to lead and influence others to accomplish organizational objectives, actualize the company’s strategy, coordinate resources in global operations, and maintain their competitive edge across national borders thus the importance of understanding global leadership in the twenty-first century (Alarico, 2017, p. 12).

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Excellent global leaders have a leadership style that generates superior corporate performance by balancing four competing criteria of performance: (1) profitability and productivity, (2) continuity and efficiency, (3) commitment and morale, and (4) adaptability and innovation (Petrick, Scherer, Brodzinski, Quinn, & Ainina, 1999, p. 60). This leadership style competence has been termed behavioral complexity in which global leaders must be aware of how their personal values and beliefs are interrupted by their followers (Petrick et al., 1999, p. 60) This is important because differences in ethical values between leaders and followers can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and a loss of trust (Maranga, 2018, p. 52). Excellent global leaders, therefore, can understand complex issues from different strategic perspectives and act out a cognitively complex strategy by playing multiple roles in a highly integrated and complementary way (Petrick et al., 1999, p. 60).

Multicultural Context

The concept of multicultural leadership has been formulated along with the tendency of globalizing economies, internationalizing businesses and the birth of teams with people of various cultures and beliefs (Doina, 2006, p. 501).  As a result, in the age of global communications, employees from all compartments and every hierarchical level can come in contact with colleagues and clients from all around the world (Doina, 2006, p. 501).

One aspect everyone in the world has in common is we are all humans however we are very different regarding our languages, customs, traditions, the way in which we conduct daily life and business (Maranga, 2018, p. 55).  The global leader must inform himself on other world cultures and what it means to know those whom he deals with, whether it is an employee, boss in another country, or in business dealings whom he does not have daily contact (Maranga, 2018, p. 55).  Global leadership success is determined by the way leaders can understand cultural nuances and adapt their leadership styles according to other countries, while also making decisions in ambiguous and complex global environments (Davis, 2015, p. 52).

Intercultural competence involves the ability to establish interpersonal relationships, communicate effectively, manage psychological stress, and adjust to different cultures, deal with varying systems of society, and understand others (Osland, 2013, p. 28). The following six competencies have been identified as essential competencies for being a global leader in a multicultural context and while many researchers have different terminology they are similar in context: (1) knowledge of the target culture, (2) personal qualities (flexibility, sense of humor, and openness), (3) behavioral skills (communicative competence), (4) self-awareness (one’s values and beliefs), (5) technical skills (ability to accomplish tasks), and (6) situational factors (clarity of expectation, psychological pressure) (Osland, 2013, pp. 29–30).

Domestic Leadership

Hiatt (2017) posits a leader is one or more people who select, equips, trains, and influences one or more follower(s) who have diverse gifts, abilities, and skills and focuses the follower(s) to the organization’s mission and objectives causing the follower(s) to willingly and enthusiastically expend spiritual, emotional, and physical energy in a concerted coordinated effort to achieve the organizational mission and objectives.

Leadership has been studied for many years thus the multiple leadership theories that have arisen and changed over the years.  The trait approach suggested there are internal traits, motives, personality characteristics, skills and values that are critical to the emergence of leaders (Mendenhall et al., 2013, p. 4).  The situational approach to leadership describes a leader whom a particular situation or context will likely influence effective leadership tendencies (Mendenhall et al., 2013, p. 6).  Most recently the transformational theory has been widely studied as an effective form of leadership.  Transformational leaders exert additional influence by broadening and elevating followers’ goals and providing them with confidence to perform beyond the expectations specified in the implicit or explicit exchange agreement (Alarico, 2017, p. 735).  Transformational leaders exhibit charismatic behaviors, arouse inspirational motivation, provide intellectual stimulation, and treat followers with individualized consideration (Alarico, 2017, p. 736).

Global Leadership vs. Domestic Leadership

Most definitions of global and domestic leadership contain two common elements: motivation and international capability. When it comes to global leadership, motivation has been defined as the ability to incite action, influence, and enable individuals to contribute to the effectiveness of organizations (Hiatt, 2017, p. 36). Concerning international capability, global leadership has been defined as more complex than domestic by Maznevski and DiStefano (2000). Global leaders need to be explorers with a repertoire of alternate characteristics that differentiate themselves from “domestic” leaders (Minner, 2015, p. 123).  Global leaders require not just emotional intelligence to work in different cultures and environments, but also cultural intelligence, or the “capability for successful adaptation to new cultural settings (Minner, 2015, p. 123).  Domestic leaders can be good global leaders with the proper mindset and training (Minner, 2015, p. 125).

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While the theories that originated from domestic leadership have changed over time, there is a need to look at them regarding global leadership and see if these theories are related. The majority of leadership models generated in the United States have worked relatively well in helping United States managers lead in a domestic context however these models have generally focused on the use of hierarchical command and control structures (Morrison, 2000, p. 118).

Regarding multicultural research has shown that domestic leadership is quite different than global leadership because what works in one country does not always work in another country (Morrison, 2000, p. 119).  Looking beyond the differences in leaders besides the attitudes, values, and beliefs there are significant differences in the national emphasis on crucial leadership capabilities regarding trust, flexibility, and integrity (Morrison, 2000, p. 119).  For a company to become more global, its leaders must develop competencies that go beyond what is familiar in the home country (Morrison, 2000, p. 121).


It is imperative that organizations work toward developing leaders with a global skill set even if the plan is not to become global (Minner, 2015, p. 123).  Understanding the importance of working with individuals from different cultures is extremely important in developing global leaders.  There is a lot of research dedicated to domestic leadership that will be instrumental in continuing to create global leadership theories. It will be with the skills, behaviors, and education described above that global leaders will lead multinational organizations into the 21st century and beyond (Minner, 2015, p. 124).


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