Five Personality Traits that Help You Succeed Abroad

By Myriam Callegarin • June 6th, 2012

Working in a foreign environment can be challenging. You are faced with behaviours that you sometimes do not fully understand, you need to build relationships with foreign colleagues, employees and business partners, and you need to handle a high amount of stress. Even so, working internationally enriches you in ways you would never experience otherwise. It opens up a world of opportunities, it makes you grow and uncover strengths you didn’t know you possess.

Contemporary psychologists have identified five core personality factors (the ‘Big Five‘) that predispose people to behave in a certain way to achieve their goals. In the context of global leadership and international business development, these personality traits can have a significant impact on your ability to create a positive experience and to live and work successfully around the globe.

  • Openness to Experience: This personality trait distinguishes people who are open to other ways of seeing and doing things from people who believe that their way is the only right one. Open people tend to be more curious, adventurous, and aware of their feelings. Successful global leaders tend to have a higher degree of openness to experience, and are more likely to accept diverse cultures, customs and behaviours.
  • Emotional Stability: This is the ability to cope with stress and failure. Successful global leaders tend to be less easily upset, they have a greater ability to cope with unexpected challenges, and they tend not to hold on to negative feelings for a long time.
  • Extroversion: It describes the amount of interaction with the external world. Extroverts enjoy being with people, they tend to be action-oriented and are often perceived as being enthusiastic and full of energy. Successful global leaders tend to have a greater natural ease with interacting effectively with colleagues and employees who are of different nationalities.
  • Agreeableness: This is the ability to form social alliances. Agreeable individuals value cooperation, social harmony and getting along with others. Successful global leaders tend to adjust to a foreign environment more easily, to deal with conflict more effectively, to be less competitive, and to have greater success when working with colleagues from other countries.
  • Conscientiousness: The ability to control one’s impulses, and to be self-disciplined, organized and result oriented. Successful global leaders tend to have a higher ability to manage complex leadership tasks (such as supervising employees in the host country, or managing foreign suppliers and vendors) that require more effort than comparable tasks in the home country.

Your personality influences your willingness and ability to learn about the country and cultures you will be dealing with. It also affects your ability to adjust to your new social and business environment, and to build successful relationships with foreign colleagues, employees and business partners. All these aspects can help you to become a more effective international leader.

Read the 5 key abilities of highly effective global leaders.

About the Author

Myriam Callegarin is a Global Executive Coach, Cross-Cultural Trainer and International Business Consultant. She works with global professionals and organizations to develop global leadership skills and intercultural intelligence to successfully perform in international careers and businesses.

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