Most companies have gone global in three steps. First, they raise capital in the international equity and debt markets; then they spread their manufacturing units across the world; and, finally, leadership becomes truly multicultural. The third stage is often the toughest.
Siemens chief executive Peter Loscher said this week that his company is “too German, too white and too male”. The complaints are a call to change the cultural DNA of the engineering firm. Leadership in most global firms is resolutely national. That is why rare examples such as Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn or Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit get so much notice. (The US has a better record than Asia, Europe and Japan.)
As our own companies go global, they will have to start thinking about all this. Till then, could they focus on the third issue identified by the Siemens CEO: gender? We need more women in boardrooms and executive leadership. That could be a fair and useful first step.