John Marcarian, founder of Expatland Global Network and CST Tax Advisors, highlights the importance of action and cultural competency in international leadership. John has learned through his experience as an expat, a former Deloitte accountant, and entrepreneur that great leaders exude passion and empathy.
Business Is About People
John has been an expat the majority of his life. Born in India, raised in Australia, and educated in England, John’s early life has served as the foundation for his present work: helping expats navigate their taxes in both their native and residential countries.
John says tax has always been his passion and he approaches it like a game of chess. This passion, combined with early examples of leadership, set the stage for his entry into entrepreneurship when he started his business in the ‘90s.
He recalls one of his father’s groomsmen, who was a CPA and auditor for the United Nations, as an early leadership role model. He inspired others, told engaging stories, and found ways to connect with others.
John also remembers encountering regrettable leadership practices in a former business associate who was self-absorbed, all talk and no action, and overbearing toward employees. True leaders lead by example, have a vision, and care about their employees and clients.
[13:09] “A business is people.”
Translate Your Leadership
Over time, John has learned that different nations and cultures — and even different parts of the same country — have distinct leadership styles. These styles must be embraced in order for business relationships to grow.
[16:54] “There’s a lot of things that you’ve got to absorb when you’re trying to message and communicate. And if you don’t study the culture going in, you’re going to make some horrible mistakes.”
John’s advice to leaders who must translate their leadership to another culture is to start by determining how the people from that culture behave toward outsiders. He describes two general ways cultures respond to new leadership:
- Like a peach: you will make progress quickly, but then you will receive resistance when you reach the hard pit.
- Like a coconut: you will make progress slowly, until you break through the hard shell and get to the fruit.
[19:09] “Spend time studying the culture, do some reading on the differences between your culture and their culture… You’ve got to change because Lord knows 40 million people in the country you’re going to aren’t changing.”
John believes the greatest global weakness in leadership is lack of empathy. He has seen this gap present in all corners of the globe.
However, John has hope. He says young people are making great strides toward breaking down national and cultural barriers that hindered previous generations from embracing people from different backgrounds.
[28:34] “Don’t try to be great because of the money. Money comes, money goes. Try to be great because you’ve got a passion for whatever it is you want to be great [at] doing.”
If you regard your work as work, you’ll be good at it, but you’ll never be great. Always strive for greatness.