Global innovation projects demand particular leadership competencies in a multicultural and networked environment. Leaders need substantial cultural and market intelligence, facilitation, and orchestration skills in order to accelerate innovation and performance around the world. Yet current leadership models are not designed for this highly challenging environment where performance is critical to international market success.

Leadership behaviors can have great influence on the outcome of the global innovation project. During my research and consulting activities, I have found that leadership can greatly influence global innovation performance. As noted by a program director that I interviewed at an international telecommunications firm: “In almost every case, the top down approach never works,” he emphasized and then elaborated, “what works is the more collaborative nature of getting different perspectives and integrating them in the creativity process”. Leaders create inspiration and motivation by recognizing the value of knowledge and talent from their cross-cultural and cross-functional teams.

In order to effectively lead global innovation, specific leadership behaviors should be considered for facilitating multicultural collaboration and organizational performance. Through my research and consulting work, I have found that certain behaviors are more suitable and effective for each of the stages in leading creation, planning, validation, and execution of new concepts for international markets. In order to review your leadership development needs, consider the following question: How could you improve leadership competencies for specific phases in the global innovation project cycle?

Ideation – Recognizing the value of knowledge and talent from cross-cultural team members will determine their engagement in creating new ideas and solutions.

Strategic Planning – Presenting strategy as an integrative and inclusive process encourages teams to increase knowledge-sharing and open access to local market and customer intelligence.

Validation – Applying a clear process with strategic objectives and feedback loops for screening and validation will help shape a concept that speaks to local market needs.

Execution – Practicing an interactive communication style through consistent dialogue and active listening ensures responsiveness to local team needs throughout the project.

Applying leadership practices to project process needs can accelerate planning and execution when collaborating across cultures and functions. Global innovation projects demand particular leadership competencies in an international, multicultural, and digitally connected environment. In launching new concepts, products or services, leaders need both cultural and market intelligence to ensure local market success. There is a greater need for trust-building and knowledge-sharing throughout the key project phases, from concept to market.

Global innovation leadership requires openness to diverse cultures and perspectives. Specific leadership competencies are required to inspire a common global vision, engage cross-cultural and cross-functional teams in dialogue, and orchestrate a dynamic space for effective project collaboration and execution. Leaders will need substantial cultural and market intelligence, facilitation, and orchestration skills in order to accelerate innovation and performance around the world. It’s time to consider innovation leadership competencies that contribute to the new world of work – one that is global, multicultural and digitally connected.

This article is based on new thoughts and excerpts from the book “Leading Global Innovation” by Karina R. Jensen, Palgrave Macmillan 2017. 

About the author

Dr. Karina R. Jensen is an international management consultant, educator, and change facilitator who enjoys orchestrating global innovation and multicultural collaboration with international leaders and teams. Author of the recent book Leading Global Innovation, Dr. Jensen’s current roles include Managing Director of Global Minds Network as well as Practice Director of the Centre for Leadership and Effective Organisations and Professor of Global Innovation and Leadership at NEOMA Business School in France. She earned her PhD in International Management at ESCP Europe Business School in Paris. Connect with Karina on LinkedIn, Twitter @DrKarinaJensen or

Featured image via Pixabay.