The Global Director vs. the Local Director - Mark A. Pfister

Talking Trends
6 min readAug 21, 2022
Pfister Strategies

How a Global Director Mindset is Advantageous for Holistic Governance

(Originally appeared in the August 17th, 2022 ‘Across the Board’ digital publication, a Board Director, Board Advisor, C-Level, and Business Leader publication reaching 28,000+ exceptional business leaders in over 70 countries with articles focused on leadership, strategy, and governance topics — sign up here)

The concept of micro solutioning (or micro thinking) typically includes things we feel we can change quickly and more easily. Today. Tomorrow. In the near-term future. On the other hand, macro solutioning (or macro thinking) commonly refers to concepts on a much grander scale. Larger mission. Longer term impact. Integrated, possibly complicated components taking more time to contemplate and solution. These viewpoint lenses are quite powerful when combined together, either in an individual’s thought approach, or sometimes when incorporated across multiple team members. Isolate these lenses in a decisioning process and you almost always guarantee problems in both the short term and long term.

When a governing body is versed and capable of viewing all challenges and strategies through an objective micro and macro lens, the most viable path not only becomes clear more quickly, but risks can also be drastically reduced. Many successful leadership teams, when studied following the completion of an unbelievable accomplishment, are almost always a group of individuals where each member exhibits a honed ability to switch hats throughout problem solving exercises to view the issue at both a micro and macro level, commonly alternating between the two as part of the iteration process. This integrated thought process is quite remarkable to witness when happening in real time.

As exciting as it can be to see a true micro and macro iteration process in action, the truth is that many leaders are quite effective at only the micro-solutioning level. Unfortunately, few leaders are effective at the macro-solutioning level. But why?

There happens to be a clear correlation with what I believe to be a Global Director vs. a Local Director… and I am not necessarily speaking about a Director’s international experience. I am talking about their mindset. A micro, or Local Director, mindset deciphers challenges at a more shallow level. Speed of decisioning is sometimes prioritized over depth of inputs and outcome. A macro, or Global Director, mindset approaches challenges at a deeper, integrated level by combining both local and global thinking. Combining the micro and macro approaches is where the effectiveness resides.

  • ‘Locally focused’ regional Board Directors commonly are not able to mitigate risks as proactively as ‘globally focused’ Directors — this is essentially describing a micro vs. combined micro + macro mindset.
  • A Global Director mindset is not only describing an international geographic view, but more importantly the drive for an expanded breadth of inputs, reactions, and outcome possibilities relating to a Director’s duties and decision making.
  • The integration of a global Director mindset along with a local Director mindset, and the ability to systematically and logically align the varying thoughts of these degrees, is extremely powerful.
  • In today’s world, no decisions are independent of external (to the organization) factors — all have interrelationships and knock-on effects.
  • A common challenge with regionally-based Director thinking and many Board education & certification programs is that they are mired solely in governance models linked exclusively to that territory’s ethos and disclosure laws (micro viewpoint). When a Director or Board does not complement this with equal focus on expanded strategy and innovation — the larger, integrated global picture (macro viewpoint) — this can easily minimize the Director’s and the Board’s effectiveness.

In recent years, numerous crises have entered the boardroom — i.e. COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions in supply chains, and persistent inflation challenges to name a few. “During a crisis, it is very useful to narrow the focus,” states Tara Rethore, CEO of Strategy for Real. “To bring the goal post forward, as it were, so that Directors can guide CEOs to take the decisions having the greatest potential for impact in the moment.” Yet, when the period of disruption and uncertainty is sustained, micro-thinking can become a habit. And this is limiting.

“Directors best serve their organizations by actively reinjecting a long-term view — macro-thinking,” Tara continues. “Drawing on their broader perspective and experience, they elevate the conversation to look beyond the disruption and provide feed-forward suggestions to guide their CEOs.” In this way, macro-thinking Directors elevate the Board’s collective leadership and accelerate the organization’s performance.

Can you spot the indicators of a Director or Board either embracing or discarding the inclusion of a macro/global mindset?

Lacking a Global-Director Viewpoint:

  • Absence of relevant data on important topics
  • Regional, more localized inputs and data points
  • Unwillingness to perform independent research
  • Unwillingness to engage experts
  • Minimal leveraging of internal leadership knowledge
  • Reluctance to practice scenario planning
  • Quick decision making
  • Willingness to take unplanned/unknown risks

Likely Outcomes: Elevated organization risk / high-profile missteps / diminishing confidence and authority of the Board as well as overall organization / shareholder & stakeholder apprehension

Embracing a Global-Director Viewpoint:

  • “Knowing the unknowns” — striving to identify the unknowns, however, embracing that unknowns play a critical role in decision making, risk mitigation, and positive risk taking
  • Proactively searching for relevant data, outside of a smaller region or geography, for an expanded viewpoint
  • Adding ‘degrees of separation’ in the thought leadership process (essentially expanding the view, relevance, severity, and potential effects)
  • Engagement of external experts + willingness to deeply leverage internal leadership when appropriate
  • Fostering an environment of openness and idea sharing
  • Understanding of required macro perspective
  • Learning from competitors and market leaders
  • Repeatable scenario planning process
  • Striving for thoughtful and mindful decisioning processes

Likely Outcomes: Lowered organization risk / deeper and more mindful considerations / more confident decisions / lowering of risk / shareholder & stakeholder confidence

It’s no secret that today’s fast-paced changes and accumulating challenges require better decision making. This is forcing Boards to step up and not be fearful of the potential additional time required to combine local and global thinking, essentially ensuring sound governance. Realizing that this is not a one-off instance to be applied to only top-priority decisions is important, too. Be the Director who guides the consistency of this process and help raise your Board’s expectations of the outcomes.

Are you governing with an integrated local & global-Director mindset?

Reach out to learn more through our Board Director Education & Certification program, plus Consulting & Advisory offerings, and International Speaking Tour topics.

Mark A. Pfister — Non-Executive Director | CEO | Chief Board Consultant | Corporate Strategist | Board Macro-Influencer | Speaker | Author —

About the Author: With a strong focus in Strategy, Governance, and Technology/Cybersecurity, Mark A. Pfister is CEO & Chief Board Consultant of M. A. Pfister Strategy Group, an executive advisory firm that serves as a strategic advisory council for executives and Boards in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. He is also Chairman & CEO of Integral Board Group, a specialized Board services and consulting company.

Mr. Pfister is a ‘Board Macro-Influencer’ and his success has been repeated across a wide range of business situations and environments. He prides himself on being a coach and mentor to senior executives and directors. In Board Director circles, Mr. Pfister has earned the nickname ‘The Board Architect’…………. << read full bio here >>

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