Why CEOs need experience abroad

Why CEOs need experience abroad Image by Hunters Race via Unsplash

Experience abroad no longer seems like a recommendation, but a requisite for CEOs in today’s world. Take a look at some of the most successful CEOs today: it’s no surprise that many of them have experienced working abroad. AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson has worked in Mexico City. CityA.M.’s managing director Simon Kent has worked in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Tanzania. In fact, a study shows that 32% of CEOs have worked overseas – a number that will increase over the next few years. Why is international experience so highly valued? 

Work experience in a foreign setting forces people to face challenges. With diversity in cultures, expectations and social norms, people face more obstacles – whether it is about learning a new language, adjusting to different markets or tailoring your products to suit a global audience. 

It is this process of adapting, and commitment to a stage of learning rather than managing, that brings a fresh perspective that contributes to the success of a business. Rather than mere appreciation, this newfound insight into a completely different demographic – what they value, how they work, their sense of humour – will be invaluable when it comes to figuring out how to draw appeal to products and services. 

Ultimately, what changes is your fundamental understanding of people. According to Harvard Business Review, “Global citizens who understand the importance of cultural nuances are able to bring people together across organisational boundaries and are more effective working and collaborating anywhere in the world.” And people knowledge is an asset in today’s world, where analytics play a key role in marketing positioning. 

Image by Dylan Gillis via Unsplash

International experience has the power to change an entire work environment. When you completely immerse yourself in someone else’s world, what follows is a deep sense of empathy which will inevitably enhance your liaisons with partners, conversations with potential clients, and most importantly, your interactions with employees. 

This can profoundly promote unity and loyalty within a company – a leader can more easily convince people that they are working towards something meaningful, given that the people already care for the business. The more one learns about the differences among people, the more prepared they are to either steer them to their advantage or bridge the gaps.

Serving the global market requires global experience. Exposure to different perspectives is necessary to appeal to consumer markets beyond borders. The skill set required to make sense of a foreign environment may not be very different from having to analyse the ever-evolving demands of consumers. 

As businesses continue to evolve, the coming decades will largely be run by dynamic CEOs with a growth mindset. Coupled with innovative ideas generated from experiences in a foreign country, these CEOs will be met with success and fulfilment while others struggle to survive. 

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