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"Outsiders are often chosen as CEOs precisely because they bring an external perspective." 

STEPHEN BROOKS, PEOPLE MANAGEMENT AND ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE CONSULTING, PA CONSULTING GROUP

Does the nationality of a CEO matter for a global company?

Stephen Brooks
Financial Times
23 February 2011

THE PROBLEM

Stephen Elop, the Canadian chief executive of Nokia, saw his 'burning platform' memo become a viral hit last month. Some commentators have suggested that his frank tone was one reason why he was hired: to shake-up the 'Finnish' culture of the company. But is the nationality of a CEO important for a global business?

THE ADVICE

The consultant: Stephen Brooks

Outsiders are often chosen as CEOs precisely because they bring an external perspective. If employees think the new CEO understands the organisation and is leading it in the right direction, their nationality won't matter. However if they fail to make a compelling case for what they want to do, their "foreignness" can become an obstacle.

The use of phrases or analogies that do not resonate will be seen as showing a lack of empathy, and that makes change harder to achieve.

CEOs need to be true to themselves, their communications need to be well prepared and show they understand the organisation, and deliver a clear message. Get that right and nationality won't be a problem.

The writer is a specialist in people management and organisational change at PA Consulting.


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