Developing Global Leaders



The intercultural Leadership Engagement and Development Program (I-LEAD) was conceptualized by Guido Gianasso in collaboration with Brimstone Consulting Group and launched at IATA in 2007. The program aims to develop culturally intelligent leaders, with the capability to run operations across geographical boundaries. Its main goals are: (1) develop cultural intelligence (CQ), overcome cultural differences and foster effective cross-cultural work; (2) develop global leaders: discover and test high potential employees capable to work across geographical boundaries; (3) drive the business: implement projects and initiatives with near-term benefits and raise awareness about business opportunities in new areas as Asia, Africa or Middle East.

The program is based on the assumption that the best approach to cross-cultural training is a combination of didactic and experiential approaches. The process begins in June with the selection of twenty “change agents” (high-performance and high-potential upper-middle and middle managers), drawn equally from two polls: “western” and “non-western”, with opposite cultural background. After selection, they participate in a 360-degree feedback exercise on leadership behaviors and complete 5 modules from an online learning resource (time management, stress management, virtual teams, business case development and project management).

In late September, the change agents go through an intense four-day Launch Workshop, which offers a variety of learning and development experiences. At the end of this launch workshop, the change agents are paired (one from the “East” with one of the “West”) to co-lead ten teams (each team made by 6 to 8 juniors). The projects are real life corporate projects, with clearly defined objectives and expected results.

Three weeks after the Launch Workshop, the two change agents lead their team through a two-day local Opening Workshop. During the two days, the team works to deliver solutions on their assigned project in the following ten weeks. Throughout this process, the coaches provide guidance to change agents and also the sponsors are helping by mentoring.

In early January, the two change agents facilitate a one-day Closing Workshop where the conclusions of this project are finalized. In February, all the twenty change agents along with a representative of each local team meet near Geneva for the Final Workshop. The change agents and their teams must present a two page report summarizing the key findings, results and recommendations. It is an occasion for the change agents to meet IATA top management and “sell” their ideas.

Summarizing, the key features of I-LEAD are the following:

  • Strong focus on experiential cross-cultural learning;

  • Leaders developing leaders (the transmission of knowledge from coaches to change agents and from change agents to team members);

  • Cross-cultural change agents pairings;

  • Senior management involvement;

  • Organization-wide support and visibility;

  • Internal ownership and development;

  • Internal coaches providing an outstanding role model on good performance;

  • Continuous innovation: trying new approaches is the emphasis throughout the whole program.