Global leadership recruitment and development: A Danish case

This spring one of my students in Change Management, Ioannis Zisopoulos, wrote a very interesting Master thesis about global leader selection and development in five Danish MNCs (1). Here are some of his findings.

What is a global leader?
One of the interesting findings is that the Danish MNCs do not label global leaders as ‘global leaders’, defining them simply as ‘leaders’. Although these leaders function in a more international context than others, no specific leadership programs are created for them. The question is whether this goes for MNCs in other countries as well, or whether this is something specifically Danish. Ioannis suggests in his thesis that it might be related to Danish culture with its emphasis on equality. It is certainly possible that Danish MNCs are hesitant to label leaders as ‘global’, thereby setting them apart from the other leaders. Whether this is true or not, it could be a good thing anyway to develop ‘normal’ leadership programs to encompass global aspects as well, since more and more leaders are nowadays working internationally, and will need to be able to deal with this added complexity.

When do organisations ‘buy’ or ‘make’ global leadDannebrog (Jacob Boetter)ers?
The thesis’ main focus lay with the decision of the organisation to ‘buy or make’ global leaders. In other words, when does an organisation decide to develop someone from inside the organisation, and when to recruit someone from the outside? When reading his thesis, the key aspect seems to be the availability of human capital: Does the company have the right person in-house to fulfil this global leadership position at this moment in time? If that is not the case, then the company will look elsewhere.

What influences the ‘buy vs. make’ decision?
In general, the companies preferred to develop an internal candidate – because they are already part of the organisation and are more likely to fit the company’s vision and culture – but there is simply not always time for that. Other factors that influence the choice between recruitment and development are whether the company is doing well – which influences how much money is available for employee development – and organisational culture. For example, one of the interviewed companies has a people-oriented culture which emphasizes the development of employees. Such companies are more likely to develop their own global leaders than to recruit from outside the organisation.

What do you think – is the fact that the Danes don’t label global leaders as such something typically Danish? Or have you seen this in other countries as well?


(1) Zisopoulos, I. (2016). Organizational perspectives on Global Leadership recruitment and development. A study of Danish MNCs. Master thesis in Change Management, University of Southern Denmark.

Image of the Danish flag by Jacob Bøtter, via Flickr.

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