Alliance Leadership

I came across an interesting comment recently: “Firms need to think more strategically about developing not just managers or global managers, but alliance managers, as they will run the companies of the future” (Isabella & Spekman, 2001, p.240). Isabella & Spekman write about the importance of alliances in the 21st Century, and how leading in an alliance requires a unique blend of skills and competencies. “Alliances” in this context being partnerships between organizations that benefit both organizations in some way, but do not involve an absorption of the individual organizations into each other. The complexity of these competencies are compounded in a global environment where leaders must understand intricate cultural nuances and dance a tightrope between the collective interests of the alliance and the individual interests of the organization the alliance leader works in. Forgoing rights & focusing on those personal relationships will paradoxically allow leaders to lead in the complexity of emerging global society

So how does an organization develop an “alliance leader”? Considering most organizations struggle with developing leaders domestically, this might too far-fetched to expect much out of most organizations in this area. If an organization struggles with developing front-line supervisors, can we be expected to develop alliance leaders? But let’s say it is possible, what would it look like?

First, the alliance leader would need to be brilliant at forging personal relationships in business settings. Alliances simply require a unique level of trust and commitment on both sides and that foundation of trust must be build at the personal level.

Second, the alliance leader needs a thorough understanding of the cultures involved in the alliance. There is no simple way to bypass this, as misunderstanding cultural norms may unintentionally derail the trust required for the alliance to succeed.

Third, the alliance leader needs to understand the art of forgoing some rights in order to collectively achieve more. This may be too much for a North American leader to do though. but perhaps that is why the world’s greatest future alliance leaders will probably not come from North America.

Isabella, L.A. & Spekman, R.E. (2001). Alliance leadership: Template for the future. In William Mobley & Morgan McCall (Eds.). Advances in global leadership (Vol 2). Bongley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.