Global Competitiveness: A Soft Skills Equilibrium

Soft Skills: Why They Are Essential For Managers
Wright Studio/
Summary: As a global manager, one requires the ability to balance corporate ideology and adaptability to regional culture to challenge multinational corporations (MNCs) in realizing rapid global competitiveness. The differences in culture will determine a company’s success or failure.

Discover Why Soft-Skills Training Is Essential For Global Managers

It’s not just about adapting to the foreign culture, how a global manager is chosen presents either an “all foreign culture” that contrasts the corporate ideology or a home manager forcing the corporate culture in the foreign market. The intellectual, psychological, and social skillsets in global managers require an equilibrium to influence the confidence, trust, and integrity that emanates from the leadership. This is where the ethical platform often gets undermined because global managers are eagerly trained for cultural adaptation when they are to be relocated to another country, but they are never trained in soft skills.

The Expatriate Manager

As expatriate managers, they may possess the abilities to manage a subsidiary, yet they are not equipped to balance the hard and soft skills that will ensure their success in the country of a different culture. This is the reason many expatriate managers crumble, not primarily because of culture shock, but more so because they cannot find the balance between how their home corporation is run and how to blend that with the new culture they are faced with. The balance requires a special perceptive ability and blend of characteristics that stretch the emotional intelligence to blend the corporate culture to which they are accustomed and the foreign country’s culture to make it work for them, their company, and the country. It also establishes a strategic framework for productive cooperation and relationships among employees and with peripheral stakeholders for the success of the multinational company.

The 21st-century expatriate manager needs not just knowledge in culture but an understanding of the host country’s culture combined with an innovative spirit and excellent interpersonal and communication skills. Therefore, for MNCs to remain successfully competitive in the global economy, they cannot apply a standardized recruitment and selection process for expatriate managers. The absence of soft skills is the prime reason so many problems or challenges are faced by human resources in the competitive world. Employees, acquaintances, business partners, distributors, and suppliers of the host-country must be well understood through this global mindset.

"Leadership of the tribe or the pack comes naturally as their natural leader. Outside your tribe or pack, you need to be a supra-national leader. Your natural gifts of empathy, intuition, perseverance and critical thinking skills form an operating base, which floats. You will never move from there unless you abandon the haven of basic instincts and take your listening skills to the supra-national level to relate equally well across cultures. At that level, the environment changes quickly and often. Your mind must move with the changes while you are anchored to the floating base. That’s how “soft skills” work today." — Gerard Pemberton CEO, Strategy and Governance Consultant

 Awareness Of Cultural Differences

Differences in culture can lead to misunderstandings and stereotypes. Hence, managers, even to new exotic lands, must be able to recognize these differences, be sensitive and respectful of them. If a manager is unable to recognize the discrepancies between cultures, then the people will not be able to work together, the teams will fail because there is a misunderstanding between the behaviors, and there will be stereotyping. There are great cultural differences among people who make up global companies. Understanding how people think, work, eat, and interact in a foreign workplace is crucial to building a successful operation. Mistakenly, tactics applicable to U.S. situations will not be necessarily applicable to other countries. Behaviors, sensitivities, and responses from every country are different as are the histories and environmental situations that affect them. Therefore, not all cultural situations and the ways in which people think are the same, yet there may be some sociocultural elements or special skills that do not address the people skills factor. These are so essential to the cultural nuances that their absence causes insurmountable failures and losses to foreign ventures.

It was found that successful companies focused on clients’ needs and human development and showed quality and client growth as common success factors. It is difficult for the corporate headquarters culture to transition to the employees in a foreign country, but the training offered on a large scale will result in a good retention rate for the firm. Leadership skills are necessary to build trust and integrity with the clients of the foreign country. These skills should be imparted via education in order to develop more globally-thinking, young professionals for the enhancement of this aspect for long-term business sustainability. It was revealed in a survey that executives in South and Latin America have found that for business sustainability and competitiveness, soft skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and life skills, are essential.

Leadership Culture

Not implementing the appropriate corporate culture affects the integration process. Local culture affects organizational culture, which has to be implemented in a strong and acceptable way by the global manager. However, organizational culture must promote trust, value, and respect for cultural diversity. Therefore, a manager must be capable of building interpersonal relationships exuding trust and loyalty in the internal and external network of the MNC to realize an acceptably influential corporate culture, credibility, and competitiveness. A leadership culture fosters innovation, collaboration, and implements successful strategies and integration in a multicultural environment. To develop this type of leadership is “new hard work,” requiring a mindset that believes in change for oneself, which subsequently fosters a successful culture and process of change in the MNC or subsidiary. A manager must have a skilled leadership culture in order to have employees’ trust, engagement, and collaboration. Full participation in the corporate culture for shared strategies and goals is necessary for a sustainable MNC. Interpersonal skills must promote trust in a holistic perspective to allow personal, professional and social interactions to excel and find balance. This is further combined with organizational and self-management skills that integrate and complement the technical and hard skills. Only when these interpersonal skills develop can the relational skills emerge successfully.

All subsidiaries in the various locations are focused on skills and strategies for recruits, employees, and clients. There is a strong emphasis on soft-skill factors, such as culture, diversity, strategic engagement, ethics, communication, leadership, empowerment, and various human development aspects. These are all targeted on the goals of the company. On a global level, companies need to have intensive training in soft skills, leadership and interpersonal skills, and have long retention rates.


Good management skills and business skills are driven by open-mindedness. It requires analytical and creative abilities to incorporate cultures and behaviors and, thus, add more perspective to the dynamics. Managers must be able to look at systems and ideas in different countries and see how they could be applied to global operating situations requiring a similar solution. Diverse networks and relationships are key factors for global development in a leadership strategy. Competitive global operations are a support network enabling managers to achieve business success and increase customer goodwill. They become a human supply chain by being able to cross-fertilize knowledge and expertise within the corporation.