Executive Reflection in a Global Virtual and Diverse World

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Executive Reflection in a Global Virtual and Diverse World



More of the same leadership development is no longer enough. Leaders today need to understand how to work with the new and emerging markets in our global, complex, virtual and volatile world. New action research has shown how an innovative 1:1 practice called Executive Reflection (ER) can enable leaders to bridge these worlds.

What do tomorrow’s leaders need today?

Our work together started through a series of conversations we had over 18 months. We explored how to better support leaders to lead in our VUCA world. VUCA is defined as “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous”. We noticed that leaders are increasingly required to support staff in complex multicultural contexts, working remotely and globally, where more of the same was no longer enough because, as Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved from the consciousness which created them.” Published statistics reinforced this.
There are many statistics available on, for example, the high levels of CEO turnaround, the low levels of employee engagement and the
increasing impact of digitisation on our personal capacities for deep thinking and reflection.
We felt that the global challenges that capture our economic, social and spiritual crises to leaders are best summarised by Otto Scharmer’s statistics:

  • It is calculated that our world economies consume the resources of 1.5 planets. Our current consumption is outstripping the
    resources of earth to support us
  • Eight billionaires’ own half as much as half of the world’s population (3.8 billion) combined
  • 800,000 people commit suicide each year – a number greater than the sum of people who are killed annually by war, murder or natural disasters combined.
As Bushong also writes, “No generation before now has had so many of its members simultaneously living in, between and among countless cultural worlds as is happening today.”

We concluded that new ways of seeing, thinking, relating, learning and creating, at the deeply personal and collective levels, are now mission critical – not only for individuals but also in order for organisations to create a secure future and build vital international relationships in our global, virtual and diverse (GVD) world. We created the acronym GVD to capture the essence of business
and organisational life today. GVD is explained as follows:

  • Global – the worldwide nature, stretch and web of work that can cross continents, time zones, cultures and language
  • Virtual – computers, the web and digital technology have enabled leaders to reach, communicate, co-ordinate and deliver work to
    customers and clients globally
  • Diverse – the cultural mix and blending of many different countries, identities, cultures, races and languages that can exist in
    just one person, in a team and in an organisation.
We believe leaders now need to alter leadership style and course as they shape vision, goals, deliverables and inspire performance. We had both achieved a Diploma as Coaching Supervisors with CSA Ltd. and knew its effectiveness. We felt that this 1:1 practice, reframed and repositioned as 1:1 Executive Reflection, could offer a new generation of leaders with the tailor-made resourcing and support to develop a new reflective leadership style that was so clearly needed for today’s VUCA GVD world.
We therefore decided to design an action research study to test our hypothesis working with our research supervisor Dr. Alison Hodge pairing ten senior global Volunteer Leaders with ten senior global volunteer ER Practitioners who had been trained by CSA Ltd.

An action research inquiry to explore the relevance and value of ER to leaders in a global, virtual and diverse world

The research:

  • Confirmed the value and relevance of ER – from the data, ER was found to be valuable and relevant to the volunteer leaders in the sample. Reflection was found to be a vital, invaluable and imperative oasis for leaders to adapt, evolve and transform, particularly in fast-moving external business environments.
  • Created a new definition of ER – ER is an independently co-created 1:1 learning partnership and distinct developmental practice built on trust, safety and service. ER provides a uniquely creative, resourceful and generative oasis for leaders to gain a robust “super-seeing” of who they are, why they lead and how they lead. ER attends to both their personal and professional development to resource leaders to develop a more reflective style in order to lead wisely in turbulent times.
  • A high level of maturity – defined as skills, personal development, reflective capacity and life experience – was needed from both
    the global volunteer leaders and volunteer practitioners to benefit from this level, quality and type of intervention.

Research recommendations

It is recommended:
  • Acronyms of VUCA and GVD are widely used: VUCA and GVD need to be used together to describe the realities of leadership today.
  • Recognition of ER as a distinct 1:1 practice: ER is recognised as a specific developmental intervention to resource and grow leaders to lead in today’s VUCA GVD world. ER is a co-created Learning partnership for leaders in the context of their leadership.
  • Development of ER practitioners: further work is carried out by the researchers to define the skills, training, resourcing and support
    of ER practitioners working with leaders in a VUCA GVD world.
  • Promotion of ER as a new style of leadership: the value, importance and relevance of ER to leaders leading in a VUCA GVD world now needs to be actively communicated to all.
  • Further research: with a larger cohort is recommended to further test the findings.

Call to action

Aligned with the UN Global Goals for 2030 we are a specialist group of cross-cultural, multilingual professionals from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences. Our vision is to extend 1:1 ER sessions world-wide and to promote its flexibility and potential global impact. We also plan to offer Global Village Retreats to build vital leadership agility and capacity across cultures to meet
the challenges faced by leaders in today’s VUCA and GVD world.

Jackie Arnold is a qualified and accredited ICF coach and Dip Coach Supervisor. She is key associate for Advance HE and has been coaching and mentoring in Universities across the UK for over 10 years. She supervises internal coaches and runs workshops on cross cultural communication.

She came together with Elaine Patterson in 2018 to carry out a research project into the value and relevance of Executive Reflection in a Global Virtual and Diverse world.

Article originally published here