Leading International Teams, Leaders Have to Change Their Behaviour, says Sabine von Österreich

Sabine von Öesterreich

Dr Sabine von Österreich is an experienced consultant for executives, managers and teams of international companies and organisations. She specialises in leadership and team performance. We asked her about the current challenges leaders face heading international teams.

At Global Female Leaders 2017, Sabine will invite you to a Think Tank Academy session on What Resilience Means, and Why it Matters for You!


Mrs. von Oesterreich, you are coaching teams of well-known organisations. Looking at the age of digitisation and globalisation, has the way teams work in bigger companies changed in comparison to, say, the 90s? 

I would definitely say: Yes! Digital Transformation and Globalisation are key elements of today’s business environment, and not only for bigger companies. It is often referred to as “VUCA”: volatile – uncertain – complex – ambiguous. In such a world the way of working together must change – think alone of decision making processes, communication, culture etc.

We live in a time of rapid changes in virtually every industry. Companies want to stay agile, fast and innovative. With decentralised communication, decentralised workplaces, as well as more complex challenges and tasks, will leaders have to take on a new role and new responsibilities in this working environment?

Again I would say: Yes. We are working in networks; virtual teams, home office, open office space and many more things changed the way we interact, the way we communicate, the way decisions are made. Leaders adopt a new role. They are in the role of enablers, therefore, they need to adapt their leadership style, and this has a lot to do with their personality. More than ever, leaders need to look at their own behaviour, interactions and reflection ability.

More than ever, leaders need to look at their own behaviour, interactions and reflection ability.”

Diagramme und Prozente

Are there any specific challenges or difficulties when it comes to leading international teams?

We live in a globalised world but persons of different nationalities and cultures have their specific ways of thinking and acting. It reminds me of the current outcry with Trumps phrase “America first”. However, when you look up America’s history you can put that into perspective: the image of the rugged man. Think of the Marlboro man, the most successful advertisement in the USA. All countries have their particularities.

Let me give you a practical example: when I write to an English client it takes at least 4 lines more of a friendly introduction to write the e-mail. Otherwise, I will come across as impolite and “very German”. Reflecting the way we are will do a lot of good when interacting with other nationalities.

In your opinion, which personal traits and qualities make for a good leader? And is it possible to train these?

Three things are essential for me: the ability to reflect, gain honest insights into my own personality and the willingness to change and adapt. And yes, it is possible to train those abilities. Coaching is one possibility to provide for that. However, the coach needs to be up to the job!

Thank you so much for the interview! We look forward to seeing you at Global Female Leaders 2017.

Reflections on Diversity, Parity and Equality

In the exclusive interview with Martina Macpherson, speaker at the Global Female Leaders 2018, we are celebrating women's achievements but also discussing past developments and key equality issues. How do you achieve constant positive performance with gender diverse teams? And most importantly, how will the female workforce change in future?