Developing Leadership Skills for an Interconnected World

Everyone dreams. We make it real. Do you have what it takes to change the world?

Everyone dreams. We make it real. Do you have what it takes to change the world?

When we think of leadership in businesses, corporations, government agencies and other types of organizations, it’s easy to assume there is a uniform, time-tested set of leadership skills needed to manage at the top and get the job done successfully.

But dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear that with societies, economies and cultures across the globe becoming more intertwined every day, developing leadership skills for an interconnected world is an essential requirement in the workplace — and these skills go beyond business as usual.

This is the foundation behind global leadership, a discipline and academic study that equips good leaders to take their skills to the next level and break through professional and geographical boundaries.

What is Global Leadership, and How Did It Emerge?

Dr. Basil Read.
Dr. Basil Read

“Global leadership emerged in the business world. You could argue that politics preceded it, but in the business world, it was this concept of having an organization that had operations in various countries,” says Dr. J. Basil Read III, an Adjunct Professor in the Global Leadership doctoral program at Troy University. “So the question became, how does an international organization manage or lead across diverse cultures and in countries with different rules and regulations?”

As more companies and organizations began to expand operations into the international arena, Dr. Read says this question became more critical. “The concept of global leadership really started to snowball with the interconnectivity that we see now with today’s geo-economic landscape where things are so intertwined,” he says.

In fact, with the current rate of globalization for organizations of all types, developing leadership skills for an interconnected world is quickly becoming a business necessity.

Dr. Pamela Lemoine

“In 2018, when I did the background research on why we needed this program, I found that there were 425 internationally-based businesses in the state of Alabama,” says Dr. Pamela Lemoine, the Program Coordinator for TROY’s Global Leadership Ph.D. “And I thought, ‘Well this is Alabama, and we’re a small part of the United States, so what does that mean for the rest of the country?’”

What it means, Dr. Lemoine says, is that increasingly, the number of professionals who will be needed to manage businesses and organizations will have to bring competencies in leading teams and operations in foreign countries. And these professionals will need to have the expertise to navigate the nuances and differences of cultures around the world.

What Unique Skills Are Needed to Succeed in Global Leadership?

Having lived and worked in Asia and Europe throughout her career, Dr. Lemoine understands firsthand the intricacies and unique distinctions involved with being in a leadership role outside of the U.S. She says several critical skills distinguish leading within a domestic organization from leading one with a more international scope.

“To successfully lead in an internationally-based organization, you have to be able to approach issues and problems working from different perspectives,” Dr. Lemoine says. “You have to have some cross-cultural adaptability — a willingness to be open and the ability to be perceptive. You need to be aware of what’s going on in the world currently and have a historical knowledge of the culture you’re leading within. You also have to be diplomatic. You have to be self-assured enough to be ready to accept diversity and differences and be empathetic. You have to understand that ‘different’ doesn’t mean ‘wrong’ when it comes to adjusting to cultural norms outside of the U.S.”

Dr. Read, too, brings an impressive depth of experience developing and using leadership skills in international settings. As a retired U.S. Navy Captain, most of his 31 years of military service took place abroad, and he has experienced some of the cultural issues that leaders can encounter when working in the international sphere.

“A simple example: when I was a ship’s engineer, my ship pulled into a port in Japan,” Dr. Read recalls. “I was charged with having repairs done, so I went to talk to the foreman. Everything I asked him to do, he responded with the Japanese word for ‘yes,’ which is ‘hai.’ So I assumed that everything would get done. However, ‘yes’ in Japanese means ‘I hear you and understand what you’re saying,’ but it doesn’t necessarily mean agreement.”

“It was an eye-opener,” Dr. Read says. “I came back to the ship and was all happy — I thought I had my whole list done! Then a more seasoned officer questioned me as to what exactly the conversation was about, and I learned very quickly that what I thought was the case wasn’t exactly true.”

The lesson is clear — if you don’t understand those kinds of cultural nuances in any given situation, your leadership of an organization operating within a global environment can miss the mark.

How Do I Balance Work, Home Life and Developing Leadership Skills?

As more and more organizations search for skilled and competent leaders to handle operations with an international component, professionals looking to fill those roles will need advanced levels of preparation.

Some essential leadership skills can be learned on the job. But to truly stand apart as a leadership candidate, it’s best to have completed advanced, graduate-level study. That’s where the Global Leadership Ph.D. at TROY fills the skills gap.

“All the literature in the field of leadership has been moving toward the facets of global leadership,” Dr. Lemoine says. “It’s the new, emerging area of focus because of how extremely intertwined we are in terms of global societies. And so there has to be some recognition that leadership skills are not only Western-based, but there are skills needed for working all over the world.”

Wenderson Jangada, who is currently enrolled in the Global Leadership Ph.D. program, agrees. “Even before the advent of COVID-19 and the populist movements that are spreading around the world (and in the U.S.), I had the impression that global markets were suffering from a lack of leadership, innovation, cooperation, and organization. I wanted to be able to participate and collaborate on creating a more dynamic and cooperative global market, and that’s one of the major reasons I applied to the TROY Ph.D. program in Global Leadership,” Jangada says.

It may be almost a given that these advanced leadership skills are necessary for the global workplace; what’s not so clear to many professionals is how to acquire this new skill set while already juggling busy lives and careers.

Dr. Hawkins speaking at graduation.
“The Global Leadership Ph.D. is a response to a need for leadership with an international perspective in diverse areas — education, the military, business and the nonprofit sector.”
— Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor

The Global Leadership Ph.D. program at Troy University has emerged as a unique option for leadership skills development. In many cases, individuals looking to prepare for leadership roles by completing a Ph.D. are working professionals who don’t have the option of leaving their position and pursuing a degree full time. In addition to finding a high-quality program of study, they also need one that will be flexible and allow them to balance advanced education with work and family obligations. TROY’s Global Leadership doctoral program is designed with built-in flexibility in mind — a component that is resonating with students.

“The online aspect allows our students to continue to work in their fields and pursue the program at the same time,” Dr. Lemoine says. “They have three lives — they have family life, work life and now they have a school life. The fact that this program is delivered online is a major attraction.”

That flexibility is what makes it all work for Kay Adams, also a current student in the program. “It is wonderful. I can do my work during the time when I am not at my full-time job,” she says. “Because it is asynchronous, it makes it easy to maintain school, work, and life balance.”

Adams works at the Air Force Cyber College as a Program Evaluation Specialist/Outreach Manager and is also an Adjunct Professor at TROY teaching information systems and business courses. “I am a supporter of lifelong learning and have always wanted my Ph.D. TROY’s program presented itself at the right time and the Global Leadership program falls in line with the work we do at the Cyber College,” Adams adds.

A high-quality and relevant curriculum, an online delivery model and the prospect of designing a unique internship experience have drawn students from across the country to the recently-established program.

“We have complex work environments in today’s world. We have private and public; we have domestic and international,” Dr. Lemoine says. “This program is specifically designed to develop people who will be working globally, and we’ve had a really great response. Each student in our first cohort has told us they intend to work in some kind of international capacity, whether as a consultant, working with a business or nonprofit, or in a military role. And they realize they need to prepare themselves. They need a wealth of information and a background of knowledge in global leadership.”

Current doctoral program students represent a wide range of professional fields and industries, from active duty military preparing for a career after their service, to working professionals looking to advance within their current organization or make a career change. What brings them all together, Dr. Lemoine says, is the understanding that they will need a distinctive set of leadership skills to reach their career goals.

For example, Jangada is working currently as a behavioral clinician/caseworker at a local mental health clinic in Decatur, Indiana. After receiving his Ph.D., he wants to apply his knowledge outside of the U.S. “I would like to work in different countries like Brazil or Argentina and contribute to the innovation and creation of new knowledge in their higher education system and leadership,” he says.

Students in the program can choose to specialize in one of two areas: organizational leadership or higher education.

Within any of these focus areas, students develop competencies in research, policy analysis, human capital development, effective communication, facilitation of global teams, improving organizational effectiveness and leading organizational change.

Additionally, students gain a deep understanding of the cultural aspects that can arise in a global leadership role — and they learn how to be prepared for them.

“Some of our students who work in global organizations lead global teams. That means, they need a solid background and understanding about other countries,” Dr. Lemoine says. “They need to be aware of the challenges that come with that, and the strengths that they must have when working with a country where things are different than they are in the United States. It might be governed differently, it might have different cultural characteristics; there are many facets at play that we often don’t think about.”

What is the Online Learning Experience Like in the Global Leadership Doctoral Program?

Dr. Read teaches one of the program’s early courses, Introduction to Doctoral Study in Global Leadership, in which students conduct the same kind of work as they would be attending an on-site Ph.D. program.

“We’re exposing students to different things they’ll be doing throughout the program, such as evaluating scholarly articles, critical thinking, doing presentations, writing,” Dr. Read says. “All those things are coming together, and we’re doing it through the lens of global leadership. And when I say through the lens of global leadership, it means various things we look at have a global leadership component. So, for example, in critical thinking, you’re looking at articles related to global leadership and then working your way through them.”

Engaging in the program through its online delivery format doesn’t mean students are losing out on any of the curricular or academic preparation they would gain by attending a Ph.D. program on campus.

“TROY’s online environment and the virtual leadership that sprouted from it fits like a glove for any working adult and non-traditional student’s agenda,” Jangada says.

He cites examples of the weekly modules and the weekend deadlines that help him to plan the number of hours to study every day and gives him the opportunity to reserve Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to finish any other assignments.

On top of that, Jangada says, “I can email professors in the event of any other unpredictable event, and I have found that my professors have been more than willing to work with me. TROY professors and other professional staff have always responded to my communication at an astonishing speed. For me, the online environment is one of the most dynamic and fastest ways to complete my degree.”

While online learning often carries the stereotype of an isolated and impersonal experience, students in TROY’s program find that the program is anything but.

While they are engaging in the Global Leadership program from as far away as Wisconsin and even California, Dr. Lemoine says her students interact with one another on a very high level. “The students in this cohort are doing group work along with individualized work,” she says. “But what’s really interesting is that after their first class, they set up a Facebook group so they can help each other.”

“They interact and support each other when they need help with a particular skill set,” Dr. Lemoine continues. “One of the students shared that he was having problems finding resources for a particular assignment, so he posted about it, and another student responded offering to help him navigate resources and find appropriate articles. Then he found out the other student was having problems with some of her writing, which was a strength of his, so he helped her with that. So that’s just one example of how students work together. It’s not that they couldn’t have contacted us; they know they could have. It’s just that they formed a really strong group resource amongst themselves, and it works really well.”

What Makes the Internship Experience in TROY’s Program So Unique?

A key component to the Global Leadership doctoral program is the required international internship experience. While many Ph.D. programs include a practicum experience, which is more focused on observation and documentation, the international internship through TROY’s program enables students to immerse themselves more fully in a foreign culture and apply theory directly in a global leadership professional setting.

Students begin by designing their internship experience with the guidance of faculty early in the program. This allows them to uniquely tailor the experience around their doctoral dissertation and future career goals.

“We want the internship to have two facets,” Dr. Lemoine says. “One, it’s connected to their dissertation focus. And two, it’s a collaborative design — they work with both the internship professor and their dissertation chair, and me, to design the experience they’re going to have. It isn’t some pre-designed experience that’s going to be handed to them. We want it to have validity in terms of what they want to achieve with their field of study and with how they want it to impact their future career.”

What Will TROY’s Global Leadership Doctoral Program Do for My Career?

As organizations across the broad spectrum of business and industry continue globalizing their operations, the demand for professionals prepared for global leadership roles will continue to grow.

A recent report by Gallup cites statistics from the American Management Association, which found that 48% of organizations consider the development of global capabilities in their leaders a top priority. Further, the same report indicates that just 18% of multinational companies say they have “the strong global leadership pipeline” necessary to achieve that goal.

Professionals who dedicate themselves to earning a Ph.D. in global leadership will distinguish themselves greatly in the eyes of potential employers.

“The program is a good fit for professionals who are moving from the beginning stages of their careers to their mid- and later-career stages,” Dr. Lemoine says. “We have people in the program representing all kinds of different career fields, and they all have expressed that somewhere in their future they’re going to want to move on to something different. That might mean anything from working with a business, to working with the military as a consultant, to working with nonprofits, to working in a global leadership role that’s different from their current role. So they all want to gain a different perspective on the role of leadership globally.”

How Do I Learn More About TROY’s Global Leadership Doctoral Program?

For Jangada, TROY’s tradition of academic excellence is one of the major factors that motivated him to start the program. He is pursuing his Ph.D. after earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree at TROY. “I believe that TROY is one of the best universities in the U.S. today,” Jangada says.

If you would like to learn more about the program, you can speak with an advisor or request more information. Visit the Global Leadership Ph.D. program page on the Troy University website, or call 800.414.5756.