How do I tackle US and global leadership challenges?

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How do I tackle US and global leadership challenges?

  • culture, Employees, leadership, US

At this event, kindly hosted by Maersk in cooperation with Aperian Global, DABF members and guests gained valuable insight into how to tackle leadership challenges from global, personal and organizational perspectives. We got useful advice from Dr. Ernest “Ernie” Gundling, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Aperian Global, as well as Jens H. Jensen, Head of HR at Maersk Group Services, and Mads Mikkelsen from Leadership and Talent Development at Danske Bank.


Covering the global aspect of leadership, with a particular focus on bridging the gap between US and Denmark, Ernie gave us a quick brush-up of the current issues that shape today’s leadership agenda.

  • The public mood in the US is currently characterized by a fair amount of insecurity. Issues like demographic changes due to immigration, economic restructuring in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, technological pressures, and not least the overall global context of economic power shifts are shaping the political agenda and have an important impact on what companies require of their leaders.
  • Zooming in on the global context, Ernie highlighted that due to the rapid growth projected for the developing world, our future customers, employees and partners will likely be found outside Europe, US and Canada. By 2025, almost half of the world’s companies with a billion dollars or more in revenue will be headquartered outside what was previously called the developed world.
  • Therefore, to keep being relevant, companies must adjust their thinking about where they are located, how they do business, what they produce, and who will lead them. Also, global leaders must take steps to stimulate and promote local talent.

The image below shows an overview of differences between faster-growth markets and slower-growth markets. It is important to think about how you can position yourself as a company to be able to work across both kinds of markets.

Global Leadership Challenges

Your leaders in different regions should be able to:

  • Be respected in a local context
  • Deliver a strong point of view
  • Lead in a regional context and in global teams
  • Navigate the global matrix
  • Balance local and headquarters priorities

Bringing a personal perspective, Jens told us about some of the valuable lessons he learned when relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina, during 2012 to 2015.

  • First of all, it is important to notice how US culture, heritage and history have a large impact on the workplace. When we talk about diversity in Denmark it’s typically focused on gender, while in US it’s the full range: international heritage, ethnicity, disabled persons, gender, etc. Ensuring appointment of people from all backgrounds reflecting the local demographics is required and measured.
  • Note that it can be challenging to navigate the risks of potential law suits against your company. The larger the company, the more you become a target, but you need to run your own risk matrix while still carefully evaluating all available legal advice 
  • Focus early on building up your social life outside the workplace – prioritize invitations and get to know your colleagues and their friends/families socially!
  • Consider using an on-boarding coach, especially for senior roles. A structured program can improve the chance of success, and organizations can mitigate the challenges (orientation programs, travel packs, coach/mentor)
  • It may be easy to identify and respect the bigger cultural differences, but it can be really hard to notice the smaller ones. Do your research on cultural differences before the move, e.g. use the GlobeSmart tool. Consider how you will embrace fitting into a local community that might be have very different values from yours
  • Regardless of which country you do business in, you need nationalities from both countries early on. Get a local in to help!

Finally, Mads covered the organizational perspective as he took us on a whirlwind tour of Danske Bank’s Good 2 Go Global program and the overall transition from local to global. Here are some questions Mads encourages global leaders to keep in mind:

  • How can we establish relationships that are filled with trust, presence and involvement across distances?
  • How do we create inspiring and effective meetings when we are not physically together?
  • How will we lead in an ever changing environment, in an organization build on matrixes and filled with diversity?

Mads’ main advice is to:

  • Ensure buy-in from the management and organization. This will get you the best results!
  • Take the why “to the team”: Why are we a global team? What is our contribution to the entire organization?
  • Focus on how you prioritize and administrate your time and efforts. Leaders have many responsibilities, so make sure to prioritize the leading-across-cultures aspect.
  • Remember that even though Denmark and US are similar, we are still quite different. In the chart below you can see how Danes and Americans differ on several dimensions, though not as much as both do from a culture like India. It is still important to understand differences in work styles like directness, level of independence, and egalitarianism, for example!

Global Leadership ChallengesGlobal Leadership Challenges

Participants received the full presentations from the session. If you are a DABF member and would like this information, just let us know at!

See link to the event agenda here.

Short video from the event here: