5 Must-Have Skills for Global Business Leaders

USC business professors explain how to succeed on the world stage.

March 22, 2018 Greg Hardesty

Some business skills are universal. The ability to manage finances, a knack for recognizing opportunities—they’re important to business success.

But certain skills can take you even further when you’re working across borders. Here are a few international business skills recommended by faculty and alumni at the USC Marshall School of Business, where global business education is part of the DNA.


Think beyond the bottom line.

“The skill sets are still the same: business, finance, marketing, management, strategy. But students need to adapt to a new paradigm, which is understanding how business impacts problems beyond just financial ROI [return on investment]. Students need to look at being major participants in solving the world’s wicked problems, such as poverty, hunger, education, the environment, access to health care in developing countries and homelessness. If business students aren’t being trained to think that way — like they are at USC — they’re going to be left behind.”
— Adlai Wertman
David C. Bohnett Professor of Social Entrepreneurship
Founding director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab


Speak several languages.

“I believe that speaking two languages is not just a competitive advantage, it’s more like a must. Being able to effectively communicate in your own language is not as easy as it seems, and working in a global marketplace adds a level of difficulty. People need to be able to effectively communicate in different languages and across countries. It’s also critical to be able to adapt to different working styles that are mainly driven by cultural differences.”
— Alejandra Revueltas MS ’17
Portfolio manager at Adobe Capital


Take a stand.

“Millennials and post-millennials aren’t as attached [as prior generations] to a physical workplace, so as a leader you need to create a sense of belonging and ask yourself, ‘What does my organization stand for?’ You have to believe deeply not just in products, but also in the purpose of your organization. Your company needs to have a compelling mission. And giving back to the community should be part of that mission.”
— Nandini Rajagopalan
Vice dean for faculty and academic affairs
Professor of management and organization


Stay curious.

“Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are critical—also, knowledge of and respect for different cultures, intellectual curiosity and a willingness to learn, as well as an understanding of financial analysis, strategy and analytics.”
— Julia Plotts
Associate professor of clinical finance and business economics


Learn to talk tech.

“In the old days, it was all about learning a foreign language. Now, everyone needs to learn the language of computers. You don’t need to be an expert programmer, but you need to be able to communicate.”
— John Matsusaka
Charles F. Sexton Chair in American Enterprise