The Three Types of People Shifting Global Mindset in 2014

As we start a new year with personal resolutions to do better and work harder, what are we doing to make the world a more open, communicative place? It would serve our businesses, economies and governments better if more people placed value in cultivating the intellectual, social and psychological capital necessary to have a truly global mindset. That had me thinking: Who is really doing the work to change minds and shift conversations toward a more open perspective?

With these necessary shifts in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the kinds of people who not only cultivate a global mindset for themselves, but are also implementing it in their own spheres of influence.

1. The Female Executive: No single person made a greater impact on the spread of a global mindset in 2013 than Sheryl Sandberg. The internationally bestselling author and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook doesn’t just have an MBA from Harvard and a net worth of a reported $400M. In addition to being a savvy businesswoman, she is also a mother, advocate for women in business and the only woman on the board of Facebook. In her book Lean In, Sandberg has this to say: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

It’s this kind of mindset of true equality, and the spaces into which she brings that mindset, that make Sandberg such an influence in making others globally minded. She works in the male-dominated tech field, at the mostly male executive level. According to San Jose Mercury News, women hold only 10.9 percent of these highest-paid executive positions and board seats in California’s 400 largest companies. Yet Sandberg not only claims a definitive seat for herself: She advocates that more women rise to her level. Sandberg is a global mindset influencer because she is changing people’s minds, globally.

In 2014, there’s another female executive who is poised to change minds in a male-dominated industry. General Motors recently announced its first female CEO in Mary Barra, an electrical engineer and Stanford MBA. With her new position, she has the opportunity to not only shift assumptions about women in management and in the automotive industry, but also how people think about female scientists.

2. The Entertainment-Industry Feminist: In 2013, everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Lady Gaga denounced the feminist label in interviews. Whether because they’d rather identify as humanists or because they think the word is too angry, it has become popular for female celebrities to avoid the label, even as female leaders in society.

Because of this trend, it only makes the entertainment professionals who do embrace the term more influential. In her album released in December, singer Beyonce Knowles championed the term, sampling a TED Talk by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her song “***Flawless.” The second verse of the song, taken from the writer’s TEDxEuston speech entitled “We Should All Be Feminists,” uses the word explicitly and positively: “Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In addition to being a definition of feminism, it’s also very close to the definition of what it means to have a global mindset.

In addition to Beyonce’s influence as an international entertainment icon and vocal feminist, mother and businesswoman, Adichie herself is poised to make an impact herself. The Nigerian-born writer has been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the O. Henry Award. In 2013 she was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Leading Global Thinkers. It is these talented women, in an industry that avoids addressing the issue at all, who will continue to influence and change how we think about women, business and feminism.

3. The LGBT Athlete: The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will take place this February. But it hasn’t been smooth skating for this international event: worldwide criticism of Russian’s law against ‘gay propaganda’ has led to threats of boycotting by brands, athletes and international figures including German president Joachim Gauck. Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, which also caused the country’s Ministry of Justice to strike down a proposed LGBT welcome pavilion, are hardly promoting positive change for the athletic community and the world at large. They are also causing thousands of potential attendees around the world to choose against attending the games.

But the world is responding with a more global mindset than Russia has put in place. The official US delegation to the 2014 Olympics includes tennis legend and LGBT advocate Billy Jean King. In May 1981 King was the first professional athlete to be open as a lesbian. The delegation also includes Brian Boitano, a gold-medal figure skater who announced he is gay on December 19 just after it was announced he would be joining the official group. King and Boitano join two-time U.S. ice hockey Olympic medalist Caitlin Cahow, who also is openly gay, in the closing ceremony delegation.

These three athletes, and President Obama who selected the delegation, are putting in the work to change the minds of the people who enact laws like Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Even in 2014, being a gay athlete is a statement, and not an easy one to make. The first openly gay NBA player, Jason Collins, remains unsigned to a team roster following his announcement in April.

As one can tell from the issues each of these influencers is addressing, there is still a lot of work to be done to shift more of the US and the world toward a more open, intellectual consideration. These executives, entertainers and athletes make it clear that having a global mindset isn’t optional, but rather a necessity to be successful in the professional world or their professions today.

 

 

The Legacy of Transformation: Lessons in Leadership from Nelson Mandela

When people are determined, they can overcome anything.” – Nelson Mandela

With Nelson Mandela’s death this month, a global spotlight has been shining on his cultural legacy. Some voices have focused on his role in ending Apartheid in 1994, while others have revisited the ensuing changes of South Africa – the growing economy, the country’s rising profile as a tourist destination and the spread of global investments. Yet while many are celebrating Mandela’s unique and nuanced brand of wisdom, few have applied his lessons toward our ever-evolving business landscape.

If you’ve watched South Africa’s national journey, then you’re no doubt familiar with the country’s values of “reconciliation” and “transformation” – key guideposts lighting South Africa’s path to transformation. Politicians, citizens, academics and business leaders are committed to shaping an environment of forgiveness and cooperation; of becoming a prosperous and peaceful country where differences are resolved in favor of fruitful collaboration and constructive long-term interests.

If you’re asking what that has to do with business dealings, the answer is quite a bit. South Africa today is not only an emerging market but an economic and cultural mirror of Mandela’s legacy. As such, it offers important lessons for businesses all over the globe that want to make a positive impact on the world.

Consider three of Mandela’s lessons in leadership.

Purposeful Work

When I visited Nelson Mandela’s former prison, one part that made a deep impact on me was the rock quarry. He and other prisoners worked here all day in the heat, breaking rocks with their bare hands – even though the rocks were later thrown out. It was brutal, senseless work, and stood in direct opposition to the passion and purpose that Mandela embodied.

It’s worth asking today, regardless of occupation, country or background: what are we accomplishing? How can we ensure our work has purpose and creates value in the world? Meaningful work is not just for the idealistic; all over the world, companies and leaders are infusing their corporate missions with lasting and practical value. Leading the charge are Millenials, who have been vocal in their interest in working for companies that are making a difference.

Moving Forward

One of Mandela’s most admired traits was his ability to forgive. Rather than holding onto anger and the divisions caused therein, he actively sought to embrace the future and foster the opportunities possible with reconciliation. This generous resolve is one of South Africa’s most defining features – and a reason the country has become such a rapid growth market. While severe poverty still exists, the economic outlook has improved dramatically for both townships and cities. Africans from all over the continent come to South Africa for employment, while the nation has become a magnet for foreign investment.

Why has the country experienced such a swift upswing? There’s less competition there when it comes to multinationals, which means higher ROI for many investors. There’s also a high demand for new products and services; South African telecom companies have added over 300 million subscribers over the last years. It’s no surprise that companies like Volkswagen, SAP, Cisco, General Electric and BMW have all found success there. In fact, nearly 50 percent of the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa members are Fortune 500 companies. By looking to the future, South Africa has catalyzed its own radical economic growth.

Social Responsibility

Sometimes buzz words become so popular that people fail to consider their deeper meaning. This is certainly true of social responsibility, and the ways we must honor the communities we invest in.

South Africa is a country like no other. With eleven official languages, multiple ethnic groups and rapid social change, the nation’s labor force and market conditions present a rich and rare opportunity. Africa as a continent is transforming itself to be a serious economic player, with many countries newly interested in entering that playing field. Yet to establish successful business connections, these international corporations must be committed to Africa as societal whole.

That means understanding the interrelationship between politics, business initiatives and social justice; it also means building relationships that show support and consideration of how a company’s investment impacts a community. Cultural awareness and diversity training, mentorship programs and initiatives that celebrate and honor the local culture are all vital elements in thriving global businesses. One example: SAP, the German software giant, created technology labs to help local children learn to use computers and prepare them for success in an increasingly digital world.

Nelson Mandela has left us, but his legacy of peaceful transformation lives on. Whether your business is seeking global expansion or simply to make a positive impact on its customers’ and employees’ lives, his lessons are worth remembering.