HRO Today Global Spring 2014 - 31

Developing Leaders
It might seem that the reason is international assignments
aren't for everyone. After all, managing a team is difficult;
managing a team through language and cultural barriers
is exponentially more difficult. But these usually aren't the
reason expatriate managers fail; most fail because they lack
basic leadership skills.
Organisations tend to promote individuals for one of
two reasons. Some promote individuals based on their
apparent leader-like behavior, i.e., for being willing to take
charge. Others promote individuals based on performance.
However, willingness to take charge indicates ambition,
not leadership; meanwhile, research shows that only 30 per
cent of high performers are potential leaders. Not only that,
when you promote a talented performer without leadership
potential, you end up losing a good technical person and
gaining a bad manager.
At its essence, effective leadership is the ability to build and
maintain a high-performing group. People universally look
for four characteristics in a leader:
1.
Integrity. Integrity is the most important characteristic
of good leaders. We want to know that the people
in charge won't take advantage of their positions:
They won't lie, steal, play favorites, or betray their
subordinates.
2.
Judgment. The success or failure of organisations
depends on decision-making. Judgment has two parts:
pre- and post-decision. Most business failures are the
result of bad decisions that are compounded by an
unwillingness to evaluate the decisions and change
direction.
3. Competence. Good leaders are perceived as knowing
what they are talking about, as being competent in
the team's business. Subordinates see leaders who lack
business acumen as empty suits, and are unwilling to
follow them.
4.
Vision. Good leaders explain to their team the
significance of their mission and how it fits into the
larger scheme of things. This vision clarifies roles,
goals, and the way forward, thereby facilitating team
performance.
By using these four basic characteristics as a framework for
judging leadership potential, organisations can drastically
reduce their failure rate among their managers. But is that
enough?
Managers face an additional set of challenges. They must
manage through cultural and communication barriers and
the stress and social isolation of an unfamiliar environment.
That requires a unique set of skills. So it's no surprise that
only 29 per cent of executives surveyed by Ernst & Young
said their companies effectively place employees into
overseas assignments without a big disruption.
Research psychologists from National Taiwan University and
the University of Illinois studied a group of 83 expatriates
working in Taiwan to test whether certain personalities
more easily adjusted to international assignments. The team
measured personality characteristics using the Five Factor
Model of Personality, a model that measures extroversion,
agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness
to experience, and their opposites. They found that three
characteristics accurately predicted improved performance in
overseas assignments.
1. Extroversion. Extroverted expatriates were more willing
to interact with their overseas subordinates, colleagues,
and boss. They were also more likely to socialise outside
of work, easing their transition into a new environment.
2. Agreeableness. Individuals who were more agreeable
were more likely to establish friendships with locals and
embrace local cultural norms, alleviating the sense of
isolation many expats experience.
3. Openness to experience. Expatriates who were more
open to experience had an easier time adjusting to
novel living conditions and culture.
Of course, there are dozens of variables outside of
personality that can influence the success or failure of an
expatriate assignment, ranging from ease of relocating
and cost of living in the host country to previous overseas
experience and arranging a work visa for expatriates'
spouses.
However, many of those factors vary from case to case,
and are therefore hard to incorporate into an expatriate
selection program. By assessing candidates' basic leadership
skills and the personality characteristics that predict more
successful adjustment to a foreign assignment, companies
can drastically improve the success rate of their expatriate
managers.
Ryan Daly is a content analyst for Hogan Assessments.
SPRING 2014 | www.hroglobal.com
[31]
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HRO Today Global Spring 2014

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