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Globalisation and changes in technology influence organisational development and cause the development of a new organisational logic (Schienstock, 2001): organizations are rethinking their strategies and approaches and are becoming greater global players as they serve not only domestic, but also foreign markets (Drabek, 2001).

There are trends towards greater personal responsibility and continuing interest in strategic alliances. The fact that more work is going into design and research process is only one aspect of the changes in the structure of work caused by the globalisation process. The nature of the production process is also changing, commonly understood in terms of "diversified quality production" and "flexible specialisation" (Schienstock, 2001).

Organisations have become knowledge intensive innovation centres in which teamwork, team learning, collaborative work and collaborative learning have become key concepts in organisational development (Tynjälä et al, 2001).

Globalisation and the emergence of the knowledge-based society are two main features of the economic paradigm at the start of the 21st century. The concept of knowledge-based society and knowledge economy is based on the view that information and knowledge are at the centre of economic growth and development of the society. The knowledge economy is based on the production, distribution and use of information and knowledge and is driven partly by possibilities opened up through technological change (OECD, 2001).

Increased globalization has created many challenges, including the need to design effective multinational organizations, to identify and select appropriate leaders for these entities, and to manage organizations with culturally diverse employees. Globalization has created a need to understand how cultural differences affect leadership performance (Northouse, 2007, p.301).

Globalization has also created the need for learners to become competent in cross-cultural awareness and practice. Adler and Bartolomew (1992) note that global leaders need to develop five cross-cultural competencies:

  • leaders need to understand business, political, and cultural environment worldwide
  • they need to learn the perspectives, tastes, trends, and technologies of many other cultures
  • they need to be able to work simultaneously with people from many cultures
  • leaders must be able to adapt to living and communicating in other cultures
  • they need to learn to relate to people from other cultures from a position of equality rather than cultural superiority (Northouse, 2007, p.302).
Thus the global environment requires a new type of leaders with a wide set of competencies. 

Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009