Leading Globally: Understanding Future Orientation

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What do the terms Just Do It, Don’t Worry be Happy, Manyana and Hakuna Matata have in common? Each provides a glimpse into a person’s orientation toward the future. Nike’s Just Do It phrase connotes immediacy, importance and the need for self-determination. In contrast, Manyana suggests that we should live in the moment as there is always tomorrow.

Individuals and organizations each possess a bias towards one of these two styles. This is called future orientation and it is an ingredient which defines how we operate, individually, nationally and an organizationally. This blog will focus on future orientation and is part 2 of an 8 part series which will help you develop global leadership skills (click here to review the first blog on Performance Orientation).


Future Orientation is the degree to which we encourage and reward future oriented behaviors such as planning and delaying gratification. 

The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between cultures or individuals with high and low future orientation. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific high/mid/low future orientation results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study. Here is a list of the things which distinguish high versus low future orientation:

Future Orientation Overview











As you work with individuals, here are some practical ways to identify whether your coworker has a higher or lower future orientation:

Future Orientation Individual







An interesting lesson from this research is that almost every country places a very high value of future orientation. However, the difference between high and low performers is execution – the ability to act on your plan and delay gratification. The study also revealed that being a rich country does not necessarily correlate to having a high future orientation. There are many poorer countries with high future orientation that are not wealthy.

Overall, higher levels of future orientation is an ingredient for personal and organizational success. For example, my blog earlier this week (Hello My Name is Agility) demonstrated that the most effective companies have time planning horizons of more than 5 years. Therefore, we typically want to help people increase their future capacity.

The ability to identify future orientation helps you work with individuals or organizations more effectively. Here are a few tips on how to use this information as you work with others.

  • Begin with awareness. Is the person/organization you are working with able to self-identify their time orientation? Awareness is the first step!
  • Be positive! Remember that most people/organizations want to have a high future orientation!
  • Stay focused. Help those with low future orientation establish clear future goals. Consistently remind how about these goals and the need to delay gratification in order to achieve them.
  • Keep it personal. Help those with high future orientation maintain healthy social relationships. People matter!

In our next installment of Leading Globally, we will discuss how gender affects cultural norms.

NOTE: The content above has been adapted from the seminal work on global leadership commonly called The GLOBE Leadership Study. It assessed 62 different countries and identified important cultural and leadership norms. The results of this massive research project provide us with a goldmine of information which helps us understand cultural differences.

Future Orientation Country

Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M, Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.


  1. Cathi Forment Ulrich (@heartwings1)

    This is a superb article and a very important diagnostic tool for communities to understand as they make changes to promote entrepreneurship! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeff Suderman

      Thank you Cathy! This research provides some great insights when related to entrepreneurship. I trust you can use this with some of your clients.


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