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How to work in an international team

Even before the pandemic reshaped our world, the way that we work was being fundamentally changed by technology.

How to work in an international team
Working in modern teams means that you'll need to employ a number of leadership skills. Learn these with Valar. Photo: Valar

Perhaps the biggest change is this: for the first time, many of us are now working remotely as part of teams that cross not just time zones, but international borders. 

This has significant implications, not least how leaders manage their teams. How do you make sure you connect with your team, and correctly identify their needs and challenges? How do you motivate – like a leader rather than a boss – with each individual, when you’re not sharing physical space with them?

Together with the mobile-first leadership institute, Valar, we identify the key ideas that anyone leading a team in 2022 needs to understand. 

A wide world of leaders 

While everyone has their own idea of what makes a good leader, there are also commonly understood perceptions of leadership qualities within different cultures. 

One need only look at the differing perceptions of good leadership across Western Europe to understand just how widely leadership styles can differ from country to country. 

In Germany, for instance, a study of hundreds of middle managers identified a set of common qualities that defined a good leader. These included a strong focus on performance, high participation within their teams and the granting of autonomy, dependent on results. That is to say, a good German leader was seen to be working alongside their team, offering flexibility as long as performance was good. Pragmatism, above all, is considered an ideal leadership quality. 

In contrast, the Italian view of leadership was shown by one study to be one of high ‘power-distance’ – ultimate authority comes from above and is accepted by teams. Personal charisma is valued more highly, and behaviour or activities that could leave a leader open to failure are avoided. Uncertainty is not accepted and, historically, masculinity may be perceived a prized attribute. Strength is what Italian workers see as the bedrock of leadership. 

In the Netherlands, the idea of a strong, charismatic leader who exerts power downwards is one that is avoided, for a number of historical reasons. The Dutch see good leaders as those there to support and motivate their workers towards effective performance. They are organisers and project managers more than they are a captain, ‘steering the ship’.  

The further one goes across the globe, the more variation one encounters. The Chinese perception of a good leader is grounded in deference to superiority and age, whereas leadership found across most of the African continent is more centered around humanist principles, for instance. 

What does this mean for anyone leading an international team? Essentially, it means that one style of leadership won’t be effective in managing everyone. These cultural differences mean that your team members won’t respond in the same way, to the same approach, leading to uncertainty and misunderstandings. 

A strong grounding in the basic principles of effective international leadership and cross-cultural communication is utterly essential to build a working environment that embraces all notions of leadership – a specific focus of the Valar program. 

Learn how to lead across international borders with Valar, the mobile-first leadership institute from Quantic. Apply today, applications end soon

Valar students take advantage of in-person conferences and meet-ups. Photo: Valar Institute at Quantic School of Business and Technology

The growing importance of ‘soft skills’

Another focus of the Valar program is the application of leadership through and with ‘soft skills’ – qualities such as dependability, resilience and negotiation skills, all of which can be learned. As the workplace becomes more connected, and many tasks become automated, it is these skills that will become ‘the future of work‘. When technical skills become largely obsolete due to technological progress, it is the ability to work effectively with others that will prove more useful. 

The most effective means of developing these ‘soft skills’ is through real life application within teams. This requires a great degree of communication skills and dedication, and a cottage industry of trainers have emerged in the last few years to impart these skills. 

Setting Valar apart in this instance is their mobile-first program built around the study and analysis of real-life workplace situations. Valar students are encouraged to not only draw upon their own experiences in resolving scenarios, but discuss them with their colleagues, seeking other perspectives.

Develop the ‘soft skills’ that will allow your to manage diverse teams with Valar, the leadership institute from Quantic.

The first step towards leadership

For those wanting to become the effective workplace leaders of tomorrow, managing broad international teams across the globe, education is the path forward. 

Valar Institute is a division of Quantic School of Business and Technology, the highly selective graduate school with a student and alumni network of over 15,000. Valar’s MBA in Management and Leadership and Executive MBA in Strategic Leadership are equipping rising stars and seasoned professionals with a cutting-edge education to help them navigate the complexities of a more remote, global workforce

Not only does Valar offer outstanding teaching that draws on the latest in leadership research, but the material is offered in a way that complements your career – as a mobile-based program, it is inherently flexible and built for busy individuals . Built on the same platform as Quantic it uses the same tested learning strategies to guide you through the complete program in less than a year, fitting around your work schedule. 

Valar participants will also be exposed to a world of fresh perspectives through their alumni networks, which reinforce the key learnings undertaken during the course. Optional conferences and networking events reinforce collaboration and communication skills additionally. 

As the way that we work fundamentally changes, and management of teams comes under more scrutiny than ever before, there’s never been a better time to learn how to lead. 

Begin your journey towards greater leadership opportunities with Valar – find out more about how you can make an MBA at Valar work for you 

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EDUCATION

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

Denmark's government has agreed on a plan to significantly reduce the number of courses offered in English in the country's universities.

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts
Life sciences faculty hold an open house at Copenhagen University. The university is now expected to reduce admissions as part of a plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt / Ritzau Scanpix

At the end of June, the plan aims to reduce the number of English-language higher education programmes while also expanding educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities.

The exact number of courses to be cut – and where they will be cut – depends on the future employment of graduates.

Cuts to English-language programmes

The reduction of English-language programmes at institutions of higher education is rooted in an effort to reduce rising costs of state educational grants (SU) in Denmark. Despite attempts to reduce SU expenses, the cost is expected to rise to 570 million kroner by 2025, far above the cap of 449 million kroner set in 2013. 

There are a number of cases in which non-Danish citizens are entitled to SU, from moving to Denmark with one’s parents, marrying a Danish citizen, residing in Denmark for more than 5 years, status as a worker in Denmark, and more.

The reduction is targeted at English-language programmes where few English-speaking students find employment in Denmark after graduation, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Education and Research. 

Among the targeted programmes are business academies and professional bachelor programmes, where 72 percent of students are English-speaking and only 21 percent find work in Denmark after completing their education. 

However, programmes where higher proportions of English students enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, will be exempt from the reduction. This amounts to 650 education institutions around the country. 

In 2016, students demonstrated against cuts in SU. Photo: Emil Hougaard / Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement also establishes a financial incentive for institutions that graduate English-speaking students who remain to work in Denmark.

According to a June 10 analysis from consulting firm Deloitte, EU students who receive higher education in Denmark contribute an average of nearly 650,000 kroner to Denmark’s public coffers over a lifetime. 

However, the report notes, a student’s positive or negative contribution depends on how long they stay in Denmark. Although students who leave Denmark shortly after graduating constitute a cost to the Danish state, the analysis found that the contribution of students who stay in Denmark to work offsets the cost of those who leave.

The analysis expressed concern that reducing opportunities for English-language higher education could “have a number of unintended negative consequences,” including deterring students who might stay in Denmark to work from moving in the first place. There’s also the risk that it will become more difficult to recruit foreign researchers to Danish universities, which could impact education quality, the analysis claims.

The UCN professional school in Thisted is expected to open one new training program as a result of the decentralisation plan. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Decentralisation of Danish education

The plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark not only expands educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities, but it also aims to reduce enrollment in higher education within major cities by 10 percent by 2030 (but not more than 20 percent).

For example, a law programme will be established in Esbjerg, a medical programme in Køge and a veterinary programme in Foulum.

Minister of Education and Research Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said the goal was to offer students educational opportunities regardless of where they live within Denmark and strengthen the economy outside of major cities. 

However, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Dansk Erhverv, expressed concern that the decentralisation plan doesn’t factor in labour demands within Denmark’s major cities.

Mads Eriksen, head of education and research policy at Dansk Erhverv, said it was “unwise” for programmes to reduce acceptance rates to in-demand fields in that particular city. 

“They are trying to solve a problem with labour in the countryside, but at the same time they are creating labour problems in the cities,” Eriksen said. “The English-language programme cuts are far more aligned with the demands of the labour market.”

Denmark has utilised unemployment-based admission for higher education since 2015. Programmes whose graduates experience unemployment consistently 2 percent higher than average are subject to a 30 percent admission cut.

Eriksen thinks it shouldn’t be a matter of reducing admissions across several universities by

“For example, we have five philosophy education programmes in Denmark, each of which have high unemployment rates among graduates,” Eriksen said, referencing a recent Dansk Erhverv analysis

He would prefer to see resources concentrated into making a couple of those programmes the best they can be and closing the rest, versus reducing admissions in all five programmes. “We have to be ready to close programmes that continue to have high unemployment, not just reduce them.”

In 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language program and converted two from English to Danish. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen / Ritzau Scanpix

Opposite impacts on provincial institutions

Gitte Sommer Harrits, vice chancellor at VIA University College, shared concern that although the decentralised education aspect of the plan aims to increase the number of students at provincial universities, the reduction of English-language programmes is likely to have the opposite effect.

A report from the organisation Akademikerne in early June found that international students have played a significant role filling educational institutions outside of Danish cities. Nine of the 10 educational institutions with the largest proportion of English-speaking students are outside the country’s largest cities. 

The University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg has the highest proportion of international students; 40 percent of its 628 students are not affiliated with Denmark or other Nordic countries. 

While significantly larger with nearly 37,000 students, Copenhagen University has 5.2 percent international students.

Already in 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language programme and converted two others from English to Danish after the Danish government ordered universities to reduce the number of international students.

Harrits said she found the possible closure of English-language programmes drawing international students to provincial areas to be puzzling when paired with the intention to decentralise education.

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