Once upon a time, I aspired to be a global professional. In my head, I described the exalted position of being global as someone who literally globe-trotted, and I did, so that fit in nicely. It wasn't until much later in life that I realised I wasn't a global professional, not even close to it, and began to question the crown I had placed on my own head.
Having worked in various countries with multiple nationalities, or leading projects involving employees from around the world, still didn't make me one. With considerable mortification, I realised that my self-declared status and self-proclaimed qualification at being global didn't mean anything because I was still set in my ways and my beliefs. I wasn't sure I could look a person in the eye, who chose differently than me, and continue to hold back my bias about what I thought of them. I still wasn't as accepting of their life choices as someone claiming to be global ought to have been. I don't know about passing the global test, but I had failed the local one, for sure. My definition of being a global professional was not just misguided, but plain wrong.
We can't be a global anything until we are locally inclusive. Which means, our first test lies in stepping out of our home lives and looking around the street, without cringing, judging and punishing. If we are still screwing up our nose, well, we have some ways to go. To put it mildly.
My new aspiration then is to be locally inclusive, so I can be globally relevant.
A person who is globally relevant is most likely someone who can absorb the influences around her, and continue to preserve her sense of identity, while respecting and celebrating that of others. This path feels closer to my heart and mind than the superficial ambition to be a global professional from a decade ago.
Like me, you might have lost count of the number of times you've seen a LinkedIn profile sum up a person's career as something on the lines of how they've been a global professional, a global marketer, a global HR leader or a global finance wizard! You get the idea. You might have used it yourself. So, what does being global really mean?
The word global is defined as relating to the whole world, worldwide or more tellingly- relating to or encompassing the whole of something, or a group of things or people, even.
This definition is relevant for us because the very same people who describe themselves as global professionals might also be vocal opponents for equal rights for everyone in their society. They might be the same folks who regularly avoid befriending those who don't fit in with their cultural comfort zone, and pretend they never saw you. If you knew this about the person's life and and the lens through which they viewed the world when they weren't at work, would you continue to believe they were as global as they claimed in their resume or their social media profiles? Most likely not.
As Mahatma Gandhi, a man so ahead of his times, said with deep insight -
"One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole."
So, what exactly do we mean when we publicly declare, 'I am a global professional', but fail to be encompassing and compassionate of what's around us, who's around us and how they choose to live their lives? Do we live our life in compartments then, one hidden and kept in secret from another? Do we show one part of us that is convenient and expedient in that moment? What becomes of our whole selves then? Most probably, no one knows the whole of us, no one sees the complete person we are. We are bereft of being truly understood or discovered or loved, not even within ourselves, perhaps.
The same way it makes no sense to be ethical in our private lives, but fudge accounts at work, it makes no sense to be global at work, but stay prejudiced on a personal level. We are a global person on the whole, or we aren't at all.
We are one indivisible person, our beliefs are all encompassing and apply to all parts of life. We delude ourselves if we say, I can continue to be global at work, but will fight on a personal level to ensure you don't get your right to be who you are and how you choose to live your life. Then we aren't global, in fact, we aren't even local. We still haven't stepped out of our homes on to the street to experience that our world is different. Our turning away won't change that. Our shouting slogans won't change that either. It doesn't matter then how many countries we've visited, our mindset and our heart is still very much homebound. We aren't global, let's face it, and let's remove that declaration from our profiles, until we earn the right to say so.
Weather we like it or not, see it today or not, understand it or not, accept it or not, we are meant to be global human beings in our local worlds. This local world is full of differences and choices and contradictions and paradoxes. What would life be if it was convenient and one-dimensional, it would barely be life, and it would certainly not be global.
Where do you find yourself on the journey to becoming more global? I am still walking on mine, a few stumbles now and then, but pick myself up and keep walking. Do write back on what you think, would love to hear back.