What makes a good international manager?

Need for International managers

For many of the most powerful businesses, this is the future scenario, and the most successful will be managed by people who can best embrace and thrive on the ambiguity and complexity of transnational operations. Despite the rapid Internationalization of businesses there are still few really international managers — but the creation of cross-cultural managers with genuinely transferable management skills is the goal for the global companies.

Qualities of a good International Manager

A number of researchers have emphasized the need for managers to be able to handle national differences in business, including cultural divergence on hierarchy, humour, assertiveness and working hours. In France, Germany, Italy and a large part of Asia, for example performance-related pay is seen negatively as revealing the shortcomings of some members of the work group. Feedback sessions are seen positively in the US but German managers see them as ‘enforced admissions of failure‘.

The international manager, therefore, must be more culturally aware and show greater sensitivity but, it can be difficult to adapt to the culture and values of a foreign country whilst upholding the culture and values of a parent company. Whilst the only way is to give managers experience overseas the cost of sending people abroad typically costs two and a half times that for a local manager, so firms look for alternatives, such as short-term secondments and exchanges and having multi-cultural project teams.

Wills and Barham (1994) believe that a good international managers require four sets of attributes as follows.

Good International Manager
Image: What makes a good International manager?

Attributes of a Good International manager

1. An International manager must be able to cope with cognitive complexity and be able to understand issues from a variety of complicated perspectives;

2. He should have cultural empathy, a sense of humility and the power of active listening. Because of their unfamiliarity with different cultural settings international managers cannot be as competent or confident in a foreign environment;

3. A good manager should have emotional energy and be capable of adding depth and quality to interactions through their emotional self-awareness, emotional resilience, ability to accept risk and be able to rely on the support of the family;

4. A good International manager should demonstrate psychological maturity by having the curiosity to learn, an orientation to time and a fundamental personal morality that will enable them to cope with the diversity of demands made on them.