During our NIU MBA international trip to North Macedonia and Austria, our team gained a great appreciation for the skillsets needed and demands placed on global leadership. We decided to further explore what it takes to lead a company on the global stage.
We reached out to an individual with a strong international presence, Abraham Sabbagh. Abraham has held senior finance and operational roles within a number of international businesses. Currently, he is the Managing Director of Operations for Ecolog International, a leading provider of supply chain, construction, and facility management services that operates in more than 36 different countries.
Abraham shared what it takes to be a global leader and how to overcome the adversity of working with different cultures. He emphasized the following:
- Listen to what others have to say. By doing so, you will have a better understanding of what is needed for the business and understand social behaviors. “Listening is the only way for me to understand how others understand the subject matter,” Abraham says. “It then allows me to provide a different perspective that may work better.”
- Understand the role of every department/function within the organization. This is the only way to fully understand the operations of the company. “This to me is crucial as every behavior, action, and decision has an impact that must be clearly understood.” Abraham states.
- Keep an open mind, proactively communicate, remain transparent. Because the world is ever changing and evolving, one must be agile, flexible and open-minded to survive in today’s global environment. Commit to ongoing, two-way, communication to ensure all stakeholders are aligned.
- Gain knowledge of global cultures and customs. Focus on what’s good for the company while always keeping in mind that various cultures may behave differently. Abraham shared, “Understanding cultures and behaviors is an asset to alleviate adversity. Not only does empathy help us understand people better it also makes us much more powerful as business leaders.”
- It’s a non-stop, around the clock affair.In the global marketplace, you are working 24/7. You’re expected to participate in a conference call on a Sunday as it may be a working day in another country. You may have to respond to disruptions during the night in one country while it is daylight in another. Running a global company means it’s always running.
- Have work-life balance. “It sounds like a cliché, but we’re all overwhelmed with the amount of information available to us so we must find time to clear our mind’s cache in order to absorb new information without cluttering our decision-making process.”
In conclusion, a global leader must adopt three important principals: sensitivity to cultural diversity, self-awareness, and humility. If you want to be a global leader, Abraham said to remember this, “Traveling the less known road often leads to new heights that one does not anticipate; it forces you to get out of your comfort zone.”
Article written by MBA students Virginia Diewald, Jonathan Hickman, Craig Mark, Victoria Volpe, Scott Walding