Subscribe to access world-class global resources and education: Subscribe
Subscribe to access world-class global resources and education: Subscribe



A New Model for Global Payroll Leadership

By Nicole Barile

What does it mean when we combine the words global payroll and leadership? What exactly does a global payroll leader look like, and what contributing capabilities does one need to succeed as a leader in global payroll?

Being a leader is more complex than ever. Payroll leaders working globally deal with extra layers of complexity as compared to a single-country or domestic payroll. Global payroll leaders communicate across time zones and borders, manage multicultural teams and organizations, enter new international markets, and must balance the needs of many individuals and stakeholders across countries and cultures.

At NB Intercultural, we’ve developed a model based on six global leadership capabilities that make sense for global payroll leaders in any country, in any culture. Within each capability are recommended skills that leaders should possess (see Figure).

Global Leadership Capability Model


Let’s look at each of those capabilities.

Capabilities, Skills Necessary in a Global Environment

Here are six leadership capabilities and their recommended skills that global leaders should possess:

1. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)—Self Awareness—Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. With a high emotional quotient (EQ) comes effective communication and the ability to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships. Components of EQ include self-awareness and empathy. Global payroll leaders high in EQ tend to be good at solving problems under pressure and effectively managing conflicts.

2. Cultural Intelligence (CQ)—See Multiple Perspectives—Cultural intelligence is the ability to relate to and communicate effectively with people from other cultures. Traditionally, this has meant communication across borders (international); however, the term now encompasses cultures within a country. Payroll leaders high in cultural quotient (CQ) are culturally competent, possess global mindsets, and can see things from multiple perspectives. They can manage staff around the world, maintain global payroll operating procedures, and advise on international compensation laws and regulations—all while building relationships and trust.

3. Adaptability Quotient (AQ)—for High-Performing Teams—Adaptability quotient (AQ) measures how well people (and organizations) respond to uncertainty, new information, and changed circumstances. Global payroll leaders must be flexible in their ideas, behaviors, and with their own careers. Not only do payroll leaders need to be personally agile, but they also need to be successful change leaders, initiating change in others. They must lead for impact and continuously improve team and organizational payroll performance over time.

4. Innovation Quotient (IQ)—A Growth Mindset—Innovation quotient (IQ) measures one’s capacity to generate, champion, and execute on innovative solutions. Today’s global payroll leaders must challenge the status quo, ask tough questions, and inspire innovation in others. Payroll leaders high in IQ are not just creative—they use their creativity and curiosity to create new processes, increase efficiency, and leverage the latest technology platforms. Payroll leaders must also be comfortable with self-disruption and possess a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is open to the ideas of others and committed to questioning how people, processes, and organizations might work to do things differently—even if failure to improve is a possible outcome. But rather than accept failure, it becomes a learning experience that can add insight for a more successful change in the future. A growth mindset leaves open the possibility that every team member may contribute for the good of the business.

5. Diversity Quotient (DQ)—Inclusive Leadership—Diversity quotient (DQ) refers to how one manages inclusion and belonging. Global payroll leaders must practice conscious inclusion, creating environments where differences are recognized and appreciated. Payroll leaders high in DQ understand their own biases and how they impact those around them. They understand that inclusive leadership is needed for people and organizations to thrive. Inclusion is the responsibility of all employees, and leaders can show the way.

6. Business Acumen Quotient (BQ)—See and Communicate the Big Picture—Business acumen refers to myriad abilities and skills that one can possess. These include execution, collaboration, and financial literacy. Global payroll leaders must be able to influence stakeholders and team members and must understand how to build and develop their talent. Payroll leaders with high business acumen quotient (BQ) don’t just understand their business; they are able to help others understand the business (and the role they play) as well. They can see the big picture without losing sight of the details. They can cut through complexity and deliver clear results. Payroll leaders high in BQ can use their knowledge and business expertise to ensure company compliance.

Everyone Can Be a Leader—If You Listen

The word “leader” is used here to mean any global payroll professional in an organization, no matter their specific role, title, or responsibilities. All our colleagues have the ability to lead; however, it’s important to note that leadership styles may differ from person to person and from country to country. Good leadership may look different to different people. Some leaders may take a more autocratic approach, making decisions unilaterally. Other leaders may be more democratic, soliciting input from each team member. Some leaders focus on being charismatic as a way of motivating and encouraging their people. Others are servant leaders, placing the satisfaction of their employees above all else. No matter the style you choose, being an effective leader means having the ability to listen.

In global payroll, this means listening to people around the world and working in very different environments than in the United States. Legendary business leader Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler Corporation President and CEO, said, “I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Businesspeople need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

Global payroll leaders no doubt have their work cut out for them as the world continues to globalize. We hope this model can be used as a framework for leaders around the world.

Do you like our content? Join the GPMI community to get free education and articles straight to your inbox! 


Nicole Barile is President and Founder of NB Intercultural. She is an Intercultural Consultant and Trainer with more than 15 years of experience helping companies and individuals improve business communications across cultures. She works closely with executives at Fortune 500 companies to create globally minded leaders and organizations, helping to facilitate their success around the globe. Barile also consults with organizations looking to create, refine, and optimize cultural diversity programs internally. She has traveled to more than 40 countries, has worked with individuals from more than 100 nations, and speaks conversational Portuguese and Spanish.