It’s never been more possible to conquer the globe – career-wise, at least – as it is today. As more companies make the leap from national to international, you will find headquarters springing up everywhere in the world, and that gives you a wonderful opportunity to stake your claim as an international business person par excellence.

The big question is, what skills do you need? In fact, it’s a little more than that – it takes a certain type of person to succeed on a global scale and your personality is as important as anything else. With this in mind, in this guide, we’re going to take a look at all the characteristics you can and should acquire…let’s take a look.

Holding the world in your hands

A propensity for education

A global leader might be revered by many, but they never rest on their laurels. It’s vital that you are educating yourself as much as possible, all the way through your career and take any opportunity to learn and better yourself. You could start doing an online MBA, but even doing as many in-house courses can help. Similarly, you should learn from your peers. Check out the big trade events in your industry and soak up as much information as you can. Here, you will find the potential futures of your business.

Willingness to learn

Studying in a library

Being a successful global leader won’t just depend on educating yourself in formal settings, however. You’ll need a little humility to properly embrace the new cultures you find yourself in, and your learning experiences here could be even more powerful than getting certification. Show an interest in others – and how they live their lives – and it will help you progress as a person and it will also influence some of your business decisions and give you some new ideas.

An experience of life overseas

Having experience living abroad gives you a huge advantage. It doesn’t have to be in the country where you intend to locate, either – although obviously, this will have its benefits. But essentially, that experience overseas will give you insight into other cultural perspectives. And if you have done in one or two places already in your life, when the time comes for your company to send you abroad, they will know you can handle it.

Understanding of diversity

If you have never lived abroad, make sure you can display some understanding of cultural diversity – and everything that means when it comes to sensitivity. You cannot expect the country you are in to adapt to your needs and requirements – you have to get involved become part of it. It could be as little as learning how to use chopsticks. But it could also help you become aware of some serious – potentially career-threatening – social faux pas.


When you are working on the global stage, there are highly complex mechanisms at work. And being dishonest in any way can often result in those mechanisms breaking down. Ultimately, if people don’t trust you then it will cost your business a huge amount, so no matter your personal ethics or morality, make sure you can be counted on. Once that trust in you starts to slip, it can be a hell of a job to claw it back.

Think big (business)

Thing Big

Working in the global perspective requires global thinking – and while that sounds simple it is not an easy skill to learn. It’s more something you will develop over time, and as you network more with people from different cultures and countries you will find yourself starting to spot opportunities in a strategic sense. It’s a good idea to get to grips with how a business works on a global level and, indeed, how entire industries do the same.

Get a handle on language

While much of the world speaks English when doing business, it’s a good idea to flex your linguistic muscles as much as possible. Don’t forget, your life globetrotting overseas will not be only with business people in smart suits – you will be talking with a whole range of different people in different positions. Ultimately, communication is critical for business leaders wherever you are in the world, and knowing the local lingo will only help.

Develop charisma

It’s important to develop your personality to ensure you have some kind of presence. That will come, of course, as you earn your title and position. But there’s nothing stopping you from working on it now. The way you dress, walk, talk to others and even your stance can have a big impact on people. You want to aim for self-confidence but not arrogance, energetic but not manic, and interested in others without being sleazy. One can easily slip into the other if you aren’t careful, so watch out for the pitfalls.

Learn to negotiate

Different countries have different customs, but one thing they all share is that everyone wants to get the best possible deal. And if you are going to cross physical borders, customary boundaries and cultural norms then one thing you will need is negotiating skills. Sure, there is inherent gamesmanship involved with negotiating but make sure you add the core skills, too.


Moving around the world at a drop of a hat isn’t for everyone. And there will be times when you are almost on autopilot – meetings in Country A followed by flights to Country B and so on. So you have to have a reasonable level of self-awareness, in a couple of different ways. First of all, knowing who you are and what your belief system is will help you adapt to new surroundings but also remember who you are. And secondly, you need to know your limits. Tiredness can quickly lead to exhaustion – and even to stress. Lots of people end up hitting the big time, but not everyone can sustain it.

So there you have it – a few things to consider if you are planning to take over the world as a business leader. Not many people make it to this level, and it won’t be easy. But these characteristics are very common amongst international business people and should give you a solid foundation to work from. Good luck!