How to use social media for global marketing

Social media connects people around the planet in powerful and unprecedented ways. As the world becomes increasingly globalised, social media plays an important role in fostering real-time communication and understanding between different peoples, cultures, and countries. 

Social media is also credited with connecting organisations and individuals in similarly new ways, eroding the barriers that used to exist between brands and consumers, and opening the door to direct communication and engagement. According to Statista, increased exposure “is the most commonly cited advantage of using social media for marketing purposes among global industry professionals,” with billions of active social media users as a potential advertising audience. Improved web traffic, lead generation, and increased loyalty are listed as further reasons why marketers use social networks in their campaigns. 

All of this means that social media is a persuasive force in global marketing – and vice versa. It informs and influences preferred marketing channels and tactics, and helps marketers tailor their messages and strategies to the specific needs of international consumers in the worldwide market.

Marketing professionals who want to use social media for effective global marketing need to first consider a few key questions.

  • What is the organisation’s aim for being on social media?
  • Who is the organisation’s target audience?
  • What are the right social media platforms for the organisation’s brand, aims, and audience?

Creating purpose

Many organisations create a Facebook or Twitter account without really understanding why they’re doing so, or stopping to consider their aim on any of the social media platforms that they join. 

Before creating logins for all the latest platforms, or joining TikTok just because that’s where Gen Z is, marketers need to first consider their purpose for joining any social media platform. Is it to build brand awareness and reputation? Is it to create a loyal customer base through social media-based customer service? Is it monetisation, or to drive e-commerce sales, a tactic known as social commerce? Any and all of these aims are valid ones, but knowing them before embarking on a social media campaign can help ensure the campaign’s success.

Engaging a target audience

Social media algorithms mean that marketers can target specific audiences, but in order to maximise on these sophisticated tools, marketers need to first understand precisely who they’re trying to communicate with. 

For example, an organisation might prefer to directly target potential customers within a particular demographic or geographic region, or it might choose to instead direct its messaging towards media professionals or social media influencers who could assist in raising brand awareness. 

Understanding the target audience also helps ensure that marketers can tailor their messages accordingly, whether it’s for specific time zones, languages, or cultural sensitives. 

Social media platforms

The sheer number of potential social media apps on Apple iOS and Android can be intimidating for some marketers, especially when new social media platforms seem to crop up regularly and others appear to fall unexpectedly out of fashion. However, few businesses will appear on all platforms, and the staples for global marketers remain Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Ultimately, though, the platforms an organisation uses should be directly linked to its social media marketing purpose and audience. For example, if the organisation’s target market is in China, it makes more sense to be on Weibo than on Facebook.


Facebook is the most well-known of all social networking sites, and boasts more than two billion monthly active users. Facebook’s user base is encouraged to post updates to their connections – typically friends and family members. Other integrations within the platform include games, an online marketplace, and online event functionality such as live video streaming as well as live audio, such as podcasts.  

Facebook also includes a popular instant messaging app, Facebook Messenger, which enables texting as well as audio and video calls.


Instagram is a photo-sharing social media platform known for its influencer marketing. It also supports video content formats, and is a popular tool for marketing products available on e-commerce sites.


LinkedIn is the go-to social media network for working professionals, and is frequently utilised for digital marketing strategies’ brand-building and reputation-building activities.


TikTok is a short-form video social media platform and is particularly popular with younger generations. In fact, many young people now prefer to use TikTok, rather than Google, to search for information.


Twitter is the microblogging platform that popularised hashtags and includes new features such as Twitter Spaces for live audio conversations.


Snapchat allows users to share messages and images for a brief window of time before the content is no longer accessible.


YouTube is the world’s largest video-sharing platform, and sits among Google’s homepage and Facebook in terms of visits.


Twitch is a live-streaming platform popular with gamers, and is often used for esports competition streaming as well as music broadcasts.


Discord is a decentralised social platform that allows users to join communities – called servers – that suit their interests. The platform supports real-time text, voice, and video chats, as well as file and media sharing, and servers can be private or public spaces. 


WhatsApp is a global instant messaging platform that supports text messages as well as voice and video calls, file and location sharing, and end-to-end encryption.


Clubhouse is a relatively new social network, launching towards the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. It’s described as a social audio app that supports audio chat rooms, and was initially invite-only.

Build social media into your global marketing strategy

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This programme is studied part-time and 100% online, so you can continue to work full-time as you focus on your professional development. Through research and taught modules, you’ll learn about management strategy, contemporary topics in global business, leading and managing organisational change, and how to manage across cultures, among other important areas of business.

What is global marketing and why is it important?

Global marketing is the focus on marketing an organisation’s products or services in the international marketplace – and in an increasingly global society, with people more connected than ever before, it’s an increasingly important area of marketing management.

Global marketing sees the world as one unique, individual market. This means that a global business’s marketing messages and approach will be largely the same no matter where in the world they’re seen or heard.

This uniform approach also means that:

  • marketing efforts are typically developed and coordinated from one central location, such as an organisation’s headquarters, rather than within individual markets
  • products and services are largely the same regardless of location – for example, the ingredients and process used to make a can of Coca-Cola are the same in all countries
  • marketing campaigns and brand imagery are typically the same in all countries.

Global marketing is particularly suited to products and services that have universal appeal, and where market research has indicated the products or services are likely to be well-received.

What is the difference between global marketing and international marketing?

Global marketing and international marketing are similar in that they are both focused on the development of marketing strategies that reach people around the world.

There is a key difference, though: while global marketing focuses on a single marketing strategy for a worldwide market – effectively treating the world as a single market – international marketing adapts its marketing strategy and tactics for different countries, typically with marketers knowledgeable in specific regions tailoring marketing activities to suit different markets, different languages, and different cultures. 

It’s worth noting, though, that marketing in a global society doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition, with global marketing on one side, international marketing on the other, and no common ground between. For example, in an article in the Harvard Business Review, John Quelch and Edward J. Hoff at Harvard Business School argued that a global approach can fall anywhere on a spectrum:

“In applying the global marketing concept and making it work, flexibility is essential,” they wrote. “Managers need to tailor the approach they use to each element of the business system and marketing program. For example, a manufacturer might market the same product under different brand names in different countries or market the same brands using different product formulas.”

What are the benefits of global marketing?

Global marketing offers a number of advantages. For example, running a single marketing campaign that aims to appeal to all consumers, rather than several campaigns that are adapted to different target markets, means that businesses can achieve huge cost savings and reduce spend on marketing. They can also benefit from the economies of scale that come with increased production to meet global market demands.

Other benefits can include the following.

Wider audience and expanded customer base

Appealing to the international marketplace means that international brands and even small businesses can grow beyond the limits of their domestic market borders. This diversification also means that organisations are less reliant on single markets – particularly uncertain or volatile ones.

Enhanced brand awareness and reputation

World-wide brands and global companies often have a competitive advantage simply due to familiarity, name recognition, and ease of access.

Additional insight

With a larger target audience and customer base comes more opportunities to gather insight and feedback – especially in online spaces such as social media, where people are more likely to engage with globally recognised brands.

Global marketing strategies

In many ways, a global marketing strategy is like any other marketing strategy. It should outline the four Ps of any marketing mix – product, price, place, and promotion – and take an evidenced-based approach to decision making.

A strong global marketing strategy should also:

  • be underpinned by a strong, consistent global brand that will resonate with audiences around the world
  • include a strong digital component to strengthen the organisation’s reach to people in any country
  • be flexible enough to adjust where required, particularly where cultural differences and sensitivities might arise

Real-world examples of global marketing 

Here are a couple of commonly cited examples of global marketing.


Nike has grown to become one of the most recognised brands on the planet through a combination of global marketing tactics, and strategic international sponsorships and partnerships that appeal to audiences around the world. Nike was one of the earliest adopters of digital marketing such as email marketing and social media marketing.


Coca-Cola is ubiquitous in dozens of countries thanks to its global marketing practices. Its brand, taste, and marketing are more or less identical whether you buy a bottle in New York or Hong Kong.

What does the term “glocal” mean and how is it used in global marketing?

Glocal is a combination of global and local. It’s a concept used in more flexible global marketing strategies where there’s a mix of standardised product offerings and marketing as well as local market or local culture components.

For example, a McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich is the same whether someone is in the United Kingdom or any other country – except in India, where the beef is replaced with a vegetarian alternative – but McDonald’s also has glocal, or region-specific menu items. These have included:

  • the McArabia, a pita bread sandwich specific to McDonald’s restaurants in the Middle East
  • McSpaghetti, a pasta menu item specific to McDonald’s restaurants in the Philippines
  • the Teritama burger, a spring menu item at McDonald’s restaurants in Japan; Japanese customers also have an autumn option – the Tsukimi burger
  • the Cheddar McMelt – a burger with extra cheese, onions, and soy sauce – specific to McDonald’s restaurants in Brazil

Challenges in global marketing

Cultural barriers are one of the biggest challenges in global marketing. For example, marketing messages that are appropriate in Sweden might not translate in South Korea and vice versa. So, even the most standardised global marketing strategies need a degree of flexibility. A multinational or international business should also be aware of important cultural and religious events, such as Christmas, Ramadan, and so on.

Businesses should also be mindful of different laws and legislation in different countries and foreign markets. Regulations can differ in everything from advertising standards to ingredients – not to mention taxes – so being aware of these differences before launching into new markets is crucial.

Explore marketing management for businesses in global settings

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Management strategy: a roadmap for business growth and success

Whether formalised or not, most businesses have a mission statement that captures their passions, plans, objectives and unique selling points. What businesses may not have, however, is an appropriate, considered and strategic approach in order to achieve these high-level visions.

Management strategy refers to the planned handling of a company’s resources in order to meet its set objectives and goals. It encompasses strategising, monitoring, analysis and assessment on a continuous basis, taking into account shifts in business environments, marketplaces and a variety of other internal and external factors. Business strategy of this type is universal – it can be adopted by businesses of all sizes and types who need to take stock of their progress and performance and develop strategies to increase these.

The benefits of a strategic management plan

The key to strategic planning of this nature is that it is never finished. It isn’t an exercise that chief executives and top and mid-level managers complete once before producing a roadmap that will take a business from strength to strength.

Formalising the direction for an organisation’s short-term and long-term future can bring with it a number of key benefits, both financial and non-financial. These include the following.

Attainment of goals and targets 

Organisations need to establish, implement, monitor and adapt a roadmap in order to achieve growth and performance objectives. Management strategies align realistic, measurable goals with agreed visions and overall ambitions, providing a course of action for an organisation to follow to achieve their end goals. Strategy formulation allows organisations to thrive in specific areas of interest.

Cohesive corporate culture and drive

Strategic management calls for organisation-wide commitment from team members to senior management to other stakeholders. When the whole business is united under a shared aim and shared action plan, team members can then understand their common goals and are better placed to communicate and collaborate. It also serves to increase the engagement and awareness of team leads and managers; they must consistently re-evaluate their position and performance in line with the objectives.

Structured and sustainable growth

Strategic management serves to streamline performance – and, in turn, increases efficiency. This efficiency is the driver for sustainable, long-term growth, enabling organisations to cement their position in the industry marketplace and build upon its success.

Increased competitive advantage

Organisations focused on their goals and management strategies are, by necessity, forward-thinking. This involves possessing an outlook on the market, including changing customer demands, constraints and unpredictable or unfavourable scenarios that may occur. This perspective is not only critical in strategy, but helps organisations to remain ahead of competitors through limiting damage and seizing opportunities. Additionally, competitive businesses – who move through iterations to be better and perform better  – may be more likely to observe other benefits, such as increased staff retention and recruitment of the best talent.

As the business world changes, strategies must adapt – making this planning process an integral part of running a business effectively.

The stages of strategic management

A useful framework for the strategic management process includes the following four steps:

  • assessment and analysis of the organisation’s current strategic goals and direction
  • identification and analysis of organisational strengths and weaknesses, both internal and external
  • formation of action plans
  • implementation and execution of action plans
  • evaluation and control of action plans, including how successful they have been and whether further adjustments are required

In the analysis stage, leaders must clarify business intentions. Using the mission statement as a starting point, evaluate the overall objectives and assess whether progress and performance is in alignment. Stakeholders are a useful source of information during this initial stage, along with risk management and SWOT analyses (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Once primary focuses have been identified, the business has a basis to build on and aims to work towards.

The formation stage is where leaders establish an action plan in order to meet its primary objectives. Ensure each point of the action plan is aligned with SMART guidelines (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) to build a solid framework into the process. It may be prudent to formulate a ‘Plan B’ for some of the strategic steps as this will encourage flexibility and resilience in unpredictable periods.

When an action plan is in motion, businesses have entered the execution stage. At this point, any elements necessary for smooth implementation – for example, establishment of new operational initiatives in certain business units, allocation of human resource or acquisition of funding – should be in place. To maximise efficiency, all stakeholders should be briefed on the action plan and confident of their role and responsibilities in relation to it.

The final stage is evaluation and control. Refer back to the goals set during the analysis stage and assess the process and its results against these measures for benchmarking purposes. Corrective actions and further adaptations may be required and are both part of the overall strategic management process. This knowledge management exercise enables leaders to use the insights to develop and hone operations, plans and processes, ensuring that with each correction the business moves closer to its core objectives. Internal and external issues must be evaluated, together with data and other useful observations.

The balanced scorecard

Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton state that traditional, financial-based performance measures do not provide a detailed-enough indication of how well modern organisations are faring. In today’s competitive business environment, metrics such as return-on-investment can be misleading grounds on which to develop innovative, continuous improvement-based activities.

Enter the balanced scorecard: a set of measures that offer business leaders a quick, comprehensive view of organisational performance. Alongside financial measures, the scorecard provides insights into customer perspective and satisfaction, innovation and improvement activities, and internal processes and perspectives. In doing so, it asks: how do we perform in the eyes of shareholders, customers and ourselves? The scorecard aims to provide a valuable, holistic look at organisational health, reducing information overload to allow leaders to speedily assess the most-critical areas for development and improvement. Strategy and vision, rather than control, become the focus.

Scorecard findings can then be used in decision-making, problem-solving and forecasting efforts, translating overarching strategy into specific and measurable steps. It’s important that managers ensure the goals are Kaplan and Norton advise that the scorecard “keeps companies looking – and moving – forward instead of backward.”

Implement management strategies to structure and align your business goals

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Successful growth and expansion requires leaders with the tools and abilities to evaluate, analyse and act decisively at the highest levels, navigating ever-evolving environments and taking advantage of business opportunities. The key operational fundamentals you’ll acquire – including international business strategy and trade, marketing, financial management, leadership, and project management – will help to underpin long-term business objectives, increasing your employability and preparing you to succeed in senior strategic roles.

What is the best way to manage across cultures?

Living and working in our interconnected, global age – where, for many businesses, employees may be spread across the world – requires leaders to be highly aware of, and skilled at, cross-cultural management. For those organisations without global teams, there is still the requirement to manage effectively across multicultural teams, where backgrounds, experiences, cultural values and communication styles may be richly diverse.

With multicultural and global teams increasingly the norm, employers are seeking business leaders with the tools and understanding to embrace cultural differences and develop high-performing teams.

What is managing across cultures?

Multicultural and cross-cultural teams are those where team members have diverse backgrounds. This diversity may include ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or other identifiable characteristic. As well as varied lived experiences, it also includes employees working in different countries, continents and time zones.

Leaders and managers must recognise, acknowledge and support these various differences and similarities to lead teams effectively and with minimal conflict.

Benefits and challenges of managing across cultures

There are numerous benefits that arise from having teams based in different countries and teams with unique cultural contexts. Multicultural teams bring a wider variety of talents, skills, perspectives, knowledge and experiences – which can be combined and drawn upon to work towards common goals. These elements can also bring about boosts in creativity – as fresh ideas and different ways of thinking are added to the team mix – leading to innovation, improved ways of working and potential business opportunities. Crucially, it also serves human resource management; a larger talent pool, made possible through global working, allows businesses to hire the most-skilled and capable candidates. This, in turn, can boost brand image, reputation, competitive advantage and profits.

Research statistics collated by InStride further demonstrate the tangible benefits to cross-cultural working:

  • more diverse – and inclusive – teams are 35% more likely to outperform competitors
  • diverse companies are 80% more likely to capture new markets
  • diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions
  • diversity within management leads to 19% higher revenue

However, while diversity is both vital and beneficial in the work environment, it has the potential to cause challenges for leaders who don’t possess the skills to support their teams.


Communication is one of the most-common barriers that leaders are likely to encounter. As well as language barriers – where some team members may find it harder to engage with day-to-day processes due to communication breakdown – this can also span different communication styles, phrases, colloquialisms, slang, dialect and non-verbal communication. The example given by global human resource organisation, Oyster, is communication differences between Eastern and Western cultures; the former tend to be indirect in communication, while the latter generally favour a more-direct, to-the-point style. Not addressing communication issues can mean employees face difficulties in conveying ideas and engaging with colleagues and, in the worst cases, are considered less-competent due to language barriers.

Work styles

Work styles can differ significantly in cross-cultural teams. Are some team members used to hierarchical structures, or more-collective decision-making? How is authority perceived? Or employee autonomy and independence? Each of these factors, together with numerous others, can present challenges for how teams work together and how individuals expect to be treated in the workplace.


Engagement and motivation can often fail to take into account cultural differences within teams. Do team members want promotions, pay rises, more autonomy, different benefits or praise? A one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable for recognition and reward initiatives and may lead to dissatisfied staff, increased attrition rates and decreased productivity.

Information sharing

Sharing and disclosing information, and business interactions relating to this, may vary between employees. Factors such as personal information, discussing emotions, examining conflicts and misunderstanding can have a significant impact on team dynamics.

Nevertheless, there are tools and approaches that leaders can take to overcome these cross-cultural challenges and reap the rewards of the benefits.

The best ways to manage across cultures

Which management practices should be examined and embedded in teams which contain different cultures?

Prioritise open communication

Company cultures that instil the value of honest, respectful two-way communication – between managers and employees, and amongst employees themselves – make room for all individuals to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions. Communicate messages clearly and transparently so that they are understood regardless of culture.

Get to know team members and listen to them

Getting to know the individuals within teams helps to build personal bonds, facilitates working relationships and demonstrates that team members are seen and appreciated on an individual level – regardless of background. Additionally, encourage team members to get to know one another better through social events and collaborative work activities. Leaders should also practise active listening, aiming to remove assumptions and biases and encourage trust and collaboration in their place.

Develop cross-cultural intelligence – and be flexible

Cultural intelligence and awareness is vital in our modern workplaces. Policies that apply to all employees, regardless of position or background, reinforces equitable treatment and helps to avoid conflict. Cultural learning programmes can help to embrace and celebrate differences, and could be made mandatory for all employees. If training cannot be offered in-house, there are plenty of providers who can address this requirement; LinkedIn Learning, for example, offers a whole suite of online programmes to support cross-cultural management. Leaders who understand specific cultural differences should also be flexible, where reasonable and possible, regarding diverse needs and requirements.

Address conflict

Work conflicts will arise – and, when they do, they should be dealt with promptly and effectively. Seek to bridge the gap between conflicting parties, and pursue resolutions that respect and benefit all individuals involved, as well as the wider team.

It’s worth stating that all of the business practices and considerations related to global leadership and managing across cultures are, as a general rule, useful business practices and considerations full stop. They have the potential to positively impact organisational behaviour and ethos for everyone.

Bring cross-cultural intelligence and management to your role

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Leading and managing organisational change

Supporting an organisation or business through change is a critical part of any leader’s job. Change is constant, and work environments continually evolve as new technologies are adopted, and old ways of working are replaced with the development of new knowledge and skills. Despite the constant presence of change, it remains a significant challenge for organisations. According to a study conducted by McKinsey, just 26% of change projects are considered to be successful within their organisations.

This is why successful change management is such a priority for businesses – and why all managers should aim to be change leaders.

What is organisational change?

Organisational change occurs whenever an organisation or business makes a significant alteration to its identity, purpose, or procedures. This can include changes to an organisation’s:

  • brand
  • culture
  • operational systems
  • internal infrastructure
  • hierarchy or structure
  • policies or processes
  • equipment or technologies
  • values
  • stakeholders
  • leadership team
  • products
  • business models.

Drivers of organisational change

There are a number of reasons why a business or organisation will choose to undergo a period of transformation. Common aims include the following.

Cost savings

Organisations often adopt new technological devices or systems to automate processes, reduce workloads, and streamline workflows in order to save money.

Business growth

Whether introducing new products or services, or emerging into new markets, businesses will embrace change to create new opportunities for growth.

Overcoming obstacles and other challenges

In periods of economic downturn or difficult market conditions, or when facing heightened pressure from competitors, suppliers, or customers, organisations will often implement a change management strategy to help steer the organisation forward – and correct course where needed. This may also occur when an organisation is required to implement new government legislation or directives.  

Adopting high-level or large-scale change

When an organisation decides to make changes to its strategic objectives, its core purpose or values, or even its fundamental structure – such as through mergers, a culture change, or new leadership and senior managers – a dedicated change management process can be instrumental in helping ensure success. 

Types of organisational change 

Organisational change comes in many forms, such as:

  • adaptive change, which is made up of small, incremental adjustments within an organisation
  • transformational change, which includes the kind of sweeping, strategic change projects that can alter the fabric of an organisation
  • remedial change, which includes reactionary change efforts that are typically implemented in response to a problem or issue.

What are the phases of organisational change?

Organisational change management usually consists of three major phases.


The preparation phase is vital for successful change programmes. It requires change agents to define criteria for success and desired outcomes, as well as any and all potential impacts, and the planned approach for the project. This plan should outline activities, establish roles, and address any risks.


The implementation phase is when all of the work outlined in the preparation phase actually happens. During this phase, leaders should be tracking and monitoring the change programme, and adapting it where necessary.


The final phase of organisational change is about sustaining the outcomes of the change programme. This means reviewing the results of the project, and ensuring that the change outcomes are embedded as part of business-as-usual within the organisation.

What is the role of a leader in managing organisational change?

Leaders play a pivotal role in managing any organisational change process.

They’re responsible for:

  • communicating with the people they lead, answering questions, providing clarity, and taking on feedback
  • motivating people, addressing resistance where it occurs, and easing the transition from the old way of working to the new approach
  • providing accountability, making assessments and decisions, and delegating where appropriate.

What is the difference between leading and managing change?

People are what determine whether a change project is successful or not. And that’s why change leaders are so important.

While managers are needed to oversee the logistical aspects of implementing change, leaders who have competency in getting buy-in from people, engaging them in the process of change, and motivating them to see change through. This is particularly important in large-scale change projects where tensions may be high and instability is inevitable. In these scenarios, leaders help people understand the vision behind the project. 

Change leaders won’t necessarily fit into any one role. While some may sit within senior leadership teams, others might work in human resources or project management. Their defining feature will be their passion and dedication for implementing a successful change programme – and getting other people on board along the way.

What are the main approaches to leading organisational change?

Organisational change has generated a number of different models, methodologies, and approaches for helping leaders to plan and implement effective change management projects.

One is the three-stage model of change developed by Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist. Lewin’s model suggests that change has three stages.

  1. Unfreeze, where people prepare for the coming change.
  2. Change, the transitional time where change occurs.
  3. Refreeze, when the change because the norm and stability is restored.

Another methodology is the eight-step process for leading change developed by Dr John Kotter, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School. Kotter’s eight steps are:

  1. creating a sense of urgency
  2. building a guiding coalition
  3. forming a strategic vision
  4. enlisting a volunteer army
  5. enabling action by removing barriers
  6. generating short-term wins
  7. sustaining acceleration
  8. instituting change.

Lead transformational change within your organisation

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This postgraduate degree is taught 100% online, so you can study around your current professional and personal commitments as you develop knowledge and skills in topics such as management strategy, operations management, contemporary issues in leadership, marketing in a global society, and contemporary topics in global business.

Leadership vs. management: what’s the difference?

Managers are an important part of any organisation. They oversee the day-to-day activities of the business, make sure work is assigned and completed, and take care of administrative tasks, such as budgeting and scheduling, along the way.

But what separates managers from leaders? The words might be used synonymously, but they’re not actually the same thing. People work for a manager – but they follow a leader. And this distinction is important, because while some jobs may require nothing more than a bit of rote direction, many roles are becoming increasingly complex, and require an environment that:

  • enables innovation and creativity
  • fosters engaged, motivated, and empowered employees
  • supports change

This is where effective leadership is required. Leaders are visionaries: they think strategically, they inspire others, and they help develop the culture – and the future – of their organisations. According to Forbes, leaders are agents of change, while managers work to maintain the status quo. In fact, it’s often said that a leader shapes the vision of their organisation, while a manager follows it. So it’s important to note that while a leader can both lead and manage people, a manager can’t always lead the people they manage. Unless, of course, they work to develop their leadership skills and a leadership style.

Why is leadership important?

The 21st century has seen significant changes in the working world. Technology plays an increasingly important role in businesses and organisations, from automated tasks to communication methods. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic created a seismic shift in working habits, with more people working flexibly and remotely than ever before. 

Within this shifting landscape, leaders have been instrumental in shaping and directing the flow of change within their organisations. They have ensured that their employees have remained engaged and motivated, and that their businesses have adapted as necessary. These leaders have not been afraid to take risks, try new ideas, implement changes, and make the occasional mistake in service to improving overall performance.

Signs of a good leader

Great leaders vary greatly in terms of leadership styles, but they all commonly demonstrate a number of important qualities, traits, and skillsets. 


Leaders are honest, direct, and transparent in their communications with colleagues. They share their vision, they share their priorities – aligning them to organisational goals – and they share their ideas. Crucially, they also welcome input and feedback from their colleagues and stakeholders, actively listening to all comments and taking other points of view on board – regardless of whether the comments come from a junior staff member or someone in a senior management role.

Emotional intelligence 

Leaders understand feelings – their own, and those of the people around them. They harness this knowledge to understand their employees, demonstrate empathy, offer personalised praise for successful work and initiatives, and acknowledge challenges that have been tackled and overcome. 


Leaders are experts in their fields, and they share their knowledge and expertise. They encourage and enable professional development – and development programmes – within their teams, and dedicate time to mentoring and coaching people. They are also learners themselves, making time for their own personal development through learning resources such as:

  • in-person leadership development courses
  • training courses to hone their everyday management skills
  • online courses, particularly leadership programmes and management courses, through websites such as LinkedIn


Because of their communication skills, emotional intelligence, and knowledge, a leader will have a wide circle of influence. Whether it’s within their team, the wider organisation, or external stakeholders, leaders can effectively and respectfully persuade and negotiate with people to help steer conversations, direct interventions, and influence actions.


Leaders are confident in their decision-making and effective in their problem-solving. However, they’re not afraid to share responsibility with their colleagues – on the contrary, they actively empower people to explore different solutions to the challenges they face. But a leader is always accountable for the decisions made under their watch.

What are the different styles of leadership?

There are a number of different leadership styles to choose from, and the most suitable for any given leader, team, or organisation, can vary greatly. 

According to the Institute of Leadership & Development (ILM), a professional body focused on leadership, the most appropriate leadership style will depend on factors such as the leader’s personality and their current circumstances. With this in mind, the ILM argues that a leader’s style should reflect the situation they’re in – known as situational leadership – rather than their own personal references. 

Transformational leadership

Transformational leaders are focused on inspiring their employees for the benefit of organisational transformation and success. They seek improvements and innovation as part of their standard process, and trust their staff to help deliver results. While this style is ideal within organisations that value new ideas and ways of working, it isn’t always appropriate within organisations that value established processes and doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Democratic leadership

Democratic leaders regularly solicit their team members in their decision-making process. While these leaders will frequently guide conversations and will make final decisions, they also openly encourage debate and new ideas. Also known as participative leadership, this leadership style is effective in engaging employees and encouraging innovation, but can be difficult when a decision needs to be made quickly.

Servant leadership

Servant leaders are focused on people first and foremost. By helping and supporting people as their primary task, servant leaders elevate and empower those around them to achieve results. This style of leadership can create inclusive and dynamic company cultures, but can also create challenges around ownership and accountability.

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Financial resources: what are they and how are they managed?

Financial resources are the funds and assets that finance an organisation’s activities and investments. In simple terms, financial resources are the monies that keep a business operating, and there are several ways a business will raise and use its financial resources. 

Every organisation will have a framework or process in place for planning, organising, directing, controlling, and monitoring its financial resources and activities in order to deliver on the goals of the business. This is known as financial resource management (FRM) or financial management.

What are the two types of financial resources?

Internal financial resources

Internal sources of finance are funds that come from within a business. Examples include profits generated by the business, retained earnings, capital funding, and liquid assets. Liquid assets are business assets that can be easily converted into cash.

Because internal financial resources are generated from within the organisation, they are interest-free. This is typically considered to be more economical from a business point of view because it means the organisation doesn’t have to pay interest – which would apply to borrowed capital and debt – granting the business a stronger financial position.  

External financial resources

External sources of finance are funds that come from outside a business. Examples include loans and credit from external sources, such as banks.

External financial resources are particularly helpful for new businesses, organisations that are looking to grow and expand, and businesses that are looking for new investors to provide funding and even guidance and expertise within the organisation. It’s worth noting, however, that these sources of funding can mean partial loss of ownership within the business, as well as the added cost of interest payments.

Sources of finance: what are some examples of financial resources?

Financial institutions

Banks and other financial institutions are a common source of external finance for businesses. Lenders and financial services can offer business financing and loans in addition to advice and guidance. According to Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the global body for professional accountants, bank loans are among the most common forms of finance for small and medium-size businesses. Bank loans in this context are also known as commercial loans or business loans.

Capital markets

Capital markets include the stock market and the bond market. They effectively funnel savings and investment funding from people and institutions with capital to lend and invest into businesses that are seeking capital. In exchange, investors aim to receive a return on their investment through price appreciation – an increase in the value of their investment – and dividends.

An organisation’s capital stock is the number of shares it is authorised to issue within the market, as recorded on its balance sheet and determined by its corporate charter. By issuing capital stock, a business can raise funds without incurring debt or needing to pay interest, but it also means diluting its control over the organisation.

Venture capital

Venture capital is an increasingly popular form of business financing, particularly for small businesses and startups. It is a form of private equity that typically comes from private investors, or investment banks. Venture capital investing can be a high-risk/high-reward scenario for investors. Similarly for businesses, accepting capital investments can mean gaining access to funding that might be otherwise unavailable through the more traditional financial system – loans or capital financial markets – but also typically grants investors equity in the business, which means more fingers in the organisation’s decision-making pie.

Trade credit

While not technically a form of funding, trade credit is a valuable financial resource for businesses. It is a business-to-business (B2B) agreement that enables a company to purchase the goods or services needed to run the business, but pay the counterparties – suppliers or providers – at a later date, typically within 30, 60, or 90 days. These interest-free partnerships allow the business to increase its assets and then deliver on its payment at a time that should, preferably, be more suitable for the organisation.

Government grants and subsidies

Governments are often a valuable source of funding for businesses, providing grants, loans, and other forms of support to help organisations grow and succeed.

In the United Kingdom, for example, both the national government and local authorities offer a number of schemes and programmes to help businesses, including:

  • small business grants
  • tax relief
  • apprentice-training grants

How are financial resources used?

Financial resources are used in a number of ways, but they typically cover the cost of doing business and turning a profit – also known as corporate finance. This includes:

  • purchasing supplies
  • building inventory
  • paying human resources (staff)
  • site costs such as office rentals or the purchase of properties and buildings

The allocation and use of resources within a business will be determined by the people or team tasked with financial resource and funding management. 

Financial resource management

Financial resource management, or financial management, is typically overseen by an individual, such as a chief financial officer (CFO) or finance manager, a dedicated team or department, or a hired third-party such as a chartered accountant. This person or team influences or manages all financial activities within a business, from how funds are procured and used, to the processes in place for accounting, payments, and risk assessments. They are often accountable to their organisation’s shareholders and other stakeholders who expect adequate returns and prudent decision making.

What are the main areas of financial management?

  • Financial controls – this includes managing the organisation’s balance sheet, profit and loss statement, financial forecast, capital budgeting, cash flow statement, derivatives, valuations, and so on.
  • Resources – this includes determining how financial resources are raised, allocated, and used. 
  • Risk management – this includes identifying and analysing potential financial risks and liabilities connected to the business, and then determining a course of action based on the organisation’s objectives, its tolerance and appetite for risk, and its financial performance, health, and sustainability.
  • Strategy and planning – this includes financial planning, strategic planning, and business planning, and looking at everything from financial inputs to management processes.
  • Performance – this includes monitoring financial activities and metrics to ensure good financial health, and acting to solve issues as they arise.

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What is a business strategy?

A business strategy outlines the specific ways in which an organisation plans to position itself, achieve its short-term and long-term goals, and grow over a period of time. It draws on other important business resources, such as the organisation’s mission, its vision, and its values, to help chart its direction forward and deliver on its objectives.

A business strategy helps underpin an organisation’s other important strategies – for example, functional operational strategies – and helps staff, customers, investors, and other stakeholders better understand how it plans to achieve its goals.

A successful business strategy also ensures that an organisation – regardless of whether it’s a startup, a small business, or a global corporation– maintains a competitive advantage in its market. It’s there to help guide decision-making, particularly on matters such as business priorities, and resource allocation.

Where business strategies sit within organisations

A business strategy typically comes second to an organisation’s corporate strategy. The corporate strategy looks at the bigger picture – the market a business is operating in, new markets that may be profitable to enter, and how best to ensure company growth. 

The business strategy helps feed into the corporate strategy, and acts as a roadmap to help deliver on the corporate strategy. Sometimes, it may also feed into a competitive strategy, which outlines methods for strengthening an organisation’s market position, attracting clients away from competitors, and defining the unique selling points within the brand as well as its products and services.

At the same time, the functional and operating strategies feed into the business strategy. These two frameworks are responsible for effectively and efficiently delivering on the organisation’s objectives as outlined in the corporate, competitive, and business strategies.

It’s also worth noting that there are a number of other strategies that typically sit under an organisation’s business strategy. These can include the:

  • marketing strategy
  • pricing strategy
  • brand strategy
  • sales strategy
  • communications strategy
  • advertising strategy
  • PR and media strategy
  • social media strategy
  • promotion strategy

What is the difference between a business strategy and a business plan?

While a business strategy acts as an overarching strategic framework within an organisation, a business plan is more granular, outlining day-to-day activities and work. Effectively, a business plan is one of the tools that helps deliver the business strategy.

Business strategies are also separate to business models, which are the methods used to generate sales and growth within a business. Examples of business models include direct sales, subscriptions, and franchises.

Five questions a business strategy should answer

Global employment network Indeed suggests that there are five main questions a business strategy needs to answer in order to be useful to its business.

  1. Why is the organisation in business?
  2. What are its key selling points or core strengths?
  3. Who are its ideal customers?
  4. Which offers provide the best results for its customers and its company bottom-line?
  5. Will this strategic framework help the business achieve its goals and objectives?

Adequately answering these questions can help a business create or improve its market value, establish or enhance its reputation, and acquire customers in greater numbers.

What makes a good business strategy?

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes during business strategy formulation. 

Strategic management, including CEOs and business leaders, need to be on board and help drive the new strategy forward. 

This requires extensive analysis – in everything from the supply chain to market research –, as well as a thorough understanding of the organisation’s competitive position and competencies. This can be better understood through simple tools, such as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis or template.

Stakeholders – such as staff groups – should also be brought into the development process to help ensure its success.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) recommends that a good strategy is developed to be:

  • flexible
  • responsive
  • creative
  • challenging
  • realistic
  • focused
  • engaging

And in order to be effective, strategic planning also needs to be implemented appropriately. The CMI recommends implementation techniques such as: 

  • ensuring that plans are aligned with the organisation’s mission, vision and values
  • building an effective leadership team
  • creating a dedicated implementation plan
  • allocating sufficient budgetary resources
  • assigning objectives and responsibilities to the appropriate people
  • aligning structures, processes, and people throughout the organisation
  • communicating the strategy
  • reviewing and reporting on progress
  • making strategic adjustments as necessary
  • developing an organisational culture that supports the strategy

Types of business strategies

There are a number of different business strategies used within the business world.

Common business strategy examples include:

  • Cost leadership. Cost leadership business strategies focus on beating competitors’ prices. For example, businesses such as Amazon look for ways to increase efficiencies or reduce production costs so that their prices are lower than their competitors’ prices. They often rely on economies of scale.
  • Differentiation. Differentiation business strategies highlight the unique features of products and services to stand out from competitors.
  • Focused differentiation. Focused differentiation is typically used by businesses that target niche markets. For example, an eco-friendly child toy company might market itself specifically to environmentally conscious parents. 
  • Focused low-cost. Focused low-cost business strategies are similar to focused differentiation strategies, but their point of differentiation is specifically lower-cost products and services. 
  • Integrated low-cost/differentiation. An integrated low-cost/differentiation strategy is the middle ground between focused differentiation and focused low-cost business strategies. It’s effectively a hybrid model where differentiated products are sold at a lower-than-average price point.
  • Structuralist. A structuralist business strategy is one that is built around current market and industry norms. Everything from products to processes is structured around current market conditions and industry standards, and the business strategy is developed around this structure.
  • Growth. Growth strategies are suitable for businesses that want to actively expand into new markets and introduce new products or services. Their focus is on continual growth, increased revenue, and new business.
  • Price-skimming. Price-skimming strategies aim to quickly recoup initial expenses for things like production, manufacturing, and marketing. Businesses charge a higher-than-average price for their product or service to swiftly recover costs, and is commonly employed for organisations launching unique and innovative products to market for the first time.
  • Acquisition. An acquisition strategy relies on business purchases and mergers to grow an organisation. Benefits can include gaining valuable skills and staff – in addition to new funding pools and assets – as well as increasing market share, reducing competition, and diversification of products and services.

What is the main difference between a defensive and offensive strategy?

An offensive business strategy targets an organisation’s competitors. Whether it’s through lower, more competitive prices, new enhancements to products or services, or even marketing plans that directly attack the competition, an offensive strategy aims to take on a bigger share of the market.

A defensive business strategy, meanwhile, protects an organisation from its competitors. It aims to inspire customer loyalty and safeguard its market share, and will use tactics such as incentives, exclusive products – or exclusive arrangements with suppliers or partners – as well as above-average customer service, to entice and retain customers and maintain its competitive position.

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What are the toughest challenges of leadership?

Business leaders around the globe face an array of internal and external burdens. The toughest challenges in leadership today include mounting pressure, strengthening communication and shaping corporate culture – and 57% of UK executives are facing a crisis in confidence.

With leadership spending nearly half of their time deliberating the needs of the business, critical decision-making is key. However, a quick-solutions approach often results in a misidentified problem, wasted resources and a back-pedalling effect which puts more stress on the internal infrastructure of the organisation. 

For any practising (or aspiring) business leader, it’s imperative to understand how to diagnose and dissolve the most pressing leadership problems.

What are the top five problems in leadership?

In 2020, the Center for Creative Leadership conducted a global study with 763 corporate leaders and found that businesses worldwide are facing the same top leadership challenges – regardless of industry, sector or organisational culture.

The report uncovered that the top five problems impacting leadership are:

  1. managerial effectiveness
  2. driving inspiration
  3. developing others
  4. guiding change
  5. managing relationships and politics

The report outlined a universal focus for managerial development across these areas.


For aspiring leaders, developing the relevant skills for optimum managerial effectiveness is essential. These skills range from top-level strategic thinking to time management – staying up-to-speed with the ever-changing demands of a leadership role. However, this was the most frequently reported challenge for executives across China, India, and the United States.

Business heads steer the ship. They oversee the most critical elements of a business, from finances through to operations, and will regularly face challenges ranging from redundancies to misconduct. However, poor decision-making is one of the key contributing factors to ineffective leadership, and studies have shown a spike in decision paralysis post-pandemic. In fact, a percentage of UK business leaders now believe their decisions to be less effective. 

Poor decisions lead to slack execution. CEO Coaching International attributes a failure of due diligence to spending time and resources in the wrong place. Many business leaders struggle to comprehensively understand their staff roles, making delegation difficult – while an inability or aversion to interpreting data effectively can derail meaningful goal-setting.

Creating a disciplined plan, conducting thorough research and assembling the right team are the key components to successful execution. Gaining role clarity allows leaders to delegate more, deploy the right training initiatives and work on the tasks that maximise their own unique skill set. Effective annual planning and reporting also helps maintain company-wide precision and accountability, while clear and actionable goals create a more cohesive vision.

Driving inspiration

Without a clear plan or projection for the future, it’s difficult to motivate a team. Today’s executives are tasked with onboarding all stakeholders and creating a shared vision – but when you’re leading a team of varying experience levels and (sometimes conflicting) viewpoints, this can be challenging. 

With today’s teams comprising colleagues from numerous academic, educational, cultural and political backgrounds, the pressure is on for leaders to inspire on a collective and individual level. You’re only as strong as your workforce – and company growth, productivity, morale, and attendance suffer when staff feel disconnected and overlooked. But many business leaders struggle when it comes to effective communication.

This lack of coherence extends to company vision – and it’s difficult for any staff member to stay motivated without a clearly defined purpose to their role. With more millennials seeking employers that are both exciting and share their values and ethics, a lack of narrative could derail engagement, motivation and focus within the workforce.

Leaders need to lean in and commit to the process. Clarity and consistency are key, and it’s important to reinforce words with tangible actions. This breeds trust, while a transparent approach to conversation engenders respect. 

It’s important for employees to have a comprehensive understanding of their purpose and performance. Having an understanding of where their careers are headed will keep staff driving forward. Communication works both ways too, and leaders who are approachable and receptive to feedback are well placed to get the best out of their teams.

Equally, it’s important for leaders to communicate wins as much as areas to improve. Recognising achievements, developing quality incentives and offering staff flexibility boosts morale and keeps employees feeling valued.


To stay effective and relevant, businesses need to constantly level-up. 

Companies that lack the finance or resource, or simply fail to prioritise training and development, risk losing staff. Offering professional development boosts employee engagement and attracts top talent. 

Leaders should take an active role in mentoring, coaching and developing others. Promoting employees to upper management, or creating new roles to further professional development have significant impact – reaching as far as increasing profitability. Enabling and encouraging good internal communication fosters skills sharing between junior and senior-level stakeholders too.

Guiding change

Managing and mobilising change isn’t easy – and it’s one of the biggest challenges facing UK leaders. Companies need to be agile and adaptable to succeed, but mitigating the consequences of change is a balancing act.

A huge hurdle to change is team resistance – and often this comes from a lack of communication from leadership. Staff need clearly defined strategies to navigate change – but also an understanding of why these changes are happening in the first place. A closed-door approach builds resentment; employees want to be consulted about what directly impacts their role or environment. 

Change-capable leadership clearly communicates the purpose and value of change, in alignment with organisational goals. It fosters collaborative decision-making, directly involves stakeholders in the execution of plans and embraces emotional reactions to change.

Managing stakeholder relationships and politics

Executive alignment is essential, and can make or break modern businesses. Creating a unified force is a key part of leadership success. It’s important to establish an environment where staff support one another – and this extends to leadership. 

When a decision is made, executives need their senior team to be behind it. Business leaders that struggle to account for this may run into roadblocks. Navigating workplace conflict, establishing team norms and remaining politically savvy are some of the key demands in this area.

What are some emerging issues in leadership?

Redefining how people work in a post-pandemic world has been the biggest corporate challenge of recent times. Business leaders are confronting new approaches to crisis management and strategic resilience, while accommodating flexible working schedules and developing new staff wellbeing initiatives. 

Ultimately, it would appear that agility, adaptability and cohesion could be some of the biggest emerging battles that businesses will face.

Become a better business leader

Study the University of York’s 100% online Master of Business Administration (MBA) and take your first step toward becoming a better business leader. With modules spanning strategic thinking, operations management and change leadership, you’ll be primed with the critical, creative and compassionate skills required to navigate complex organisational boundaries in a considerate way. 

This immersive online course will grow your global network as you connect with peers from around the world, and will prepare you for a prospering career in international workplaces.