The Leadership Value of International Business Experience

Ellen McMahon, EdD

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The business world is constantly changing with the rapid development of new market possibilities in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Australia.  This demonstrates the importance for organizations to recruit and retain leaders who have developed a portfolio of international business experience.

Why does exposure to global business practice benefit business leaders and the organizations they work for?  With the growth of the global middle class, export and manufacturing industries in the United States are more actively pursuing strategic expansion into new overseas markets, which invites ethnic diversity into the corporate culture and business process.   In order to successfully connect your products, sales or services to foreign buyers, an executive team with global business experience is essential.

Businesses are looking for executives with more than global business awareness, they are looking for leaders who have built intercultural competencies.

Developing Intercultural Competence

When business leaders seek out opportunities to meet and engage with organizations abroad, it opens the door to a deeper understanding of unique models and approaches.  Within the United States our business practices have small variations depending on the region, but in general they are fairly predictable and uniform.  In the many industrialized countries abroad, business methods are impacted significantly by sociocultural and economic influences which are very unique to the region.  They vary dramatically from American norms.

The first benefit of international business exposure for leadership is the development of intercultural competency.  Successful business leaders can develop the ability to communicate and relate to other professionals in different cultural contexts by:

    • Developing an understanding of the history, political beliefs, communication styles and mores of the international business community.
    • Improving communication by breaking down cultural barriers between ethnically diverse leaders and their teams internally.
    • Improving the ability to relate in a more authentic way with other businesses externally around the world without making ethnocentric judgements.
    • Opening the door to multinational collaboration and business growth to engage foreign business partnerships.
    • Developing the ability to create strategies that are successful for both domestic and international business growth and expansion.

The Value of Networking Internationally

Who you know can propel your career and your business organization forward.  Managers who have made international contacts and engaged with overseas partners have found innovative ideas and new concepts to apply at home, while making valuable connections to other decision makers in niche industries.  The ability to prospect for new opportunities through a global network of professionals is limitless.

To remain competitive as a business leader, international experience is a crucial part of your portfolio, and there are a variety of opportunities for managers and leaders to acquire it through volunteer service or as part of an academic program.  


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