Instead of starting gradually, Ranker dived into his first overseas assignment after finishing an undergraduate degree in economics and psychology at the University of Redlands. He took a job with Mercedes-Benz in Germany, boarded with a local family, and avoided English. “I decided to throw myself into the deep water,” Ranker said March 15, 2012, during the Developing Leaders for Global Roles Summit, a two-day event organized by the Najafi Global Mindset Institute at Thunderbird School of Global Management. “I had this total immersion that I designed for myself as my first job out of the university.”
Ranker said the German experience was part of a lifelong journey toward global mindset that started in his youth when he began exchanging letters with an Italian pen-pal. His global ambitions eventually led him to Thunderbird School of Global Management. Since then the global senior executive coach has lived and worked on four continents.
Ranker used different terminology in the 1960s, but he said his goal from the beginning was to acquire global mindset. His personal evolution toward global mindset has been mirrored by corporate and leadership movements that he has witnessed in the recent decades.
Ranker said his self-transformation started with a willingness to take risks in unfamiliar environments. “My whole adult life has been oriented toward being sensitive to people from other cultures, and trying to learn as much as I can,” Ranker said. “For me the description on a personal level for global mindset is the ability to get outside my base culture and try to walk in someone else’s shoes.”
At the start of his career, Ranker said U.S. companies typically sent expatriates abroad as a reward for domestic success. “It was a disaster,” he said. “Those people didn’t have any affinity for differences in culture.” He said companies demonstrated the opposite of global mindset. “They were rewarding senior executives at the end of their careers by letting them go and have some fun for the last couple of years,” Ranker said. Those days are gone. Ranker said companies today recognize the importance of international markets and take global talent development seriously.
Ranker said the corporate transformation has led to an evolution in leadership from command-and-control to more inclusive styles that recognize cultural differences. “Bosses were expected to know the answers, and people who reported to the bosses were supposed to shut up and do what they were told,” Ranker said. Leaders today are more inclined to invite participation and to listen to diverse voices.