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The 3 Top Tips To Be A Truly International Leader

The 3 Top Tips To Be A Truly International Leader

Naked Leader Week 832 – 29 July 2019

Time to Read: 3 minutes

The 3 Top Tips To Be A Truly International Leader



I first met Claire Gillingham in 2005 when she was ‘HR Business Partner, Payment Operations’ – today Claire is Vice President HR, International for American Express Global Business Travel. Meeting her recently, it struck me that Claire doesn’t have the same energy, passion and wow that she had some 14 years ago.

No – she has more – so much more.

As a leader that I have long admired and am honoured to call a friend, I have been wanting to feature Claire for some time. And in characteristic Claire – and Naked Leader – style, let’s arrive at the points:

The 3 Top Tips from an International Leader, on how to be one:

1. Respect Local Differences, Values And Cultures.

It doesn’t matter which country, the organisations that succeed will be the ones who are run by the nationals of that country. Just as we in Naked Leader have seen scores of companies fail in China by flying in Western experts, Claire has seen this in many other countries. Indeed, 12 of her 13 direct reports across 24 countries is a local. And the 13th is married to a local, lived in that country for years and fluent in its language.

Top Tip 1: Train locals

2. Trust Your Team
Claire’s strongest passion was reserved for trusting the people in her team. Indeed, except in exceptional circumstances, Claire will go with her team leader’s view, choice or decision over what she would perhaps have done. As Claire puts it:
“This is the strongest sign of trust there is. Clearly, if I know something in the bigger picture that makes my team leader’s decision unhelpful, I will say so – however those are the rare exceptions. My rule is to trust my leaders – after all that is why they were recruited. Yes, occasionally they ‘fail’ – and learn from that, and ironically by trusting them they are more likely to come and ask for my help, advice and guidance than if I just told them what to do.”

Top Tip 2: Trust your leaders and the people in your team, country by country

3. Be The Business

Claire and my very first conversation was about HR – is it a ‘support’ function or a ‘business’ function. Claire’s views then have turned into Amex GBT’s reality today – a critical business function. Having this approach takes courage, as Claire says:
“It’s our role to win business, to increase revenues and take costs out – if we aren’t doing that every year, every month and every day then we aren’t doing our jobs”

In Naked Leader we have long championed HR, IT and every function being ‘the business’ – in our experience it is often the function themselves that refer to themselves as separate from ‘the business.’

As Claire, and an increasing number of HR Business Professionals, are proving across borders, barriers and boundaries, HR can and must have a dynamic, positive business impact.

Top Tip 3: No matter where you are in the world, and no matter what your function, be the business

And a secret 4th…

Please don’t tell Claire that I am adding this bit, as she is very humble, downplays her success and never shouts about her achievements.

4. Have Courage

Claire added this as an overall trait of International Leaders – then added:

“This is something I need more of”

No, you don’t Claire

You have oodles of it

If there was ever a shining example of a Naked Leader, it is Claire. Claire is being successful by being herself, and leading others to be the same. Claire doesn’t grow followers, she nurtures other leaders, across the world.

With my thanks to Claire and my love and best wishes to you all



The Business Mastermind – Podcast

Gavin Preston interviews David Taylor as one of his guests in his Business Mastermind Podcast series.

In Gavin’s own words “Listening back, I think it is an engaging and humorous interview stacked with value and a good account of the FGS (Formula for Guaranteed Success), Leadership and why we should focus on choice over change, so Naked Leader fans will enjoy it.”

Listen here iTunes Spotify

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