I have tried to show how it is imperative for leaders to CONNECT if they want to succeed internationally. In my previous blogs, I explained how you must C- communicate effectively, O- observe culture, N- network intentionally, N- nurture community, and E- exemplify integrity. Because of the transient nature of international work, you must realize that what you do while they are there will impact how well the organization runs when you are gone. These last two points speak more about how to truly empower locally and leave a legacy.
C is for Cultivate Growth. Growth is essential, and also very challenging. Despite your surroundings, limitations, and boundaries, you must find a way to grow. Growth is important for internal morale and external influence. It also creates momentum for further expansion. Those who truly believe in the vision of an organization will naturally want to grow. What some do not understand is that the growth does not all need to come from the leader. Everyone should have the ability to grow themselves and the organization.
That kind of trust and independence within a framework of the given vision takes cultivating. I say, “cultivate” because it has to be worked at. You have to put time into it. Growth does not always come naturally. Like any living thing, it takes time and the right ingredients. The ingredients are a balance of structure and freedom. There must be a clear vision and guidelines along with staff autonomy and trust. If there is too much freedom, the growth will be out of control. If there is too little room, you will suffocate the growth.
T is for Train and Develop. I strongly believe in good development practices. Sometimes people with good intentions leave the local workforce in worse shape than before. I believe the goal must be sustainability, the strategy long-term, and the method empowerment through training and development. The goal of leadership should be to bring others up to your level, not push them further behind. The most important question to ask is, “What would things look like if I left tomorrow?” If the answer is, “it would be a disaster”, then you are doing something wrong.
Internationally, you need to know your boundaries as an expatriate. Most practically, it means understanding what you can offer and what you cannot. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give is to pass on wisdom and knowledge through training and development. Training is teaching in practice. Development is leading others along a path to empowerment and self-reliance. It is a selfless part of connecting that shows that you are not in it for yourself. Leadership is about pushing ahead into uncharted areas. But if there is no one who can come with you, then you have lost your ability to connect and influence. Too many leaders try to push ahead to gain credit for themselves. But when they look behind, there is no one following. They have not spent the time to rise up others around them. Therefore, training and developing staff must be a core component of a leader, if there is any desire to see the organization succeed long-term.