Alumni Profile

Linda Sharkey

Linda Duffy Sharkey '71 is an expert in global leadership development.

Learning Global Dexterity

by Chris Farnum

A business leader who could be very successful in Rochester, N.Y., might fail if moved to Germany or Singapore.

“You do have to do business differently” overseas, says Linda Duffy Sharkey ’71, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert, author, speaker, and coach in global leadership development and organization development. Now a consultant, she previously was a senior human resource executive at Hewlett-Packard and at GE Capital.

The good news is that global dexterity can be learned, says Sharkey, who outlines how in the 2012 book she co-wrote, Winning with Transglobal Leadership: How to Find and Develop Top Global Talent to Build World-Class Organizations.

She and her co-authors drew on original research, interviews with high-performing executives, and decades of combined experience as senior executives, researchers, and consultants.

Companies tend to focus on making sure their global executives know the language and get some cross-cultural training. But Sharkey and her co-authors found other dimensions and behaviors necessary to be successful globally: the ability to function in the face of ambiguity, have empathy, connect with people, develop talent, and adjust your attitude so you don’t impose your perspective and values on others.

Sharkey has found that knowing the history of an organization and its people helps her work with them effectively—using skills that date back to her years studying world history and political science at Nazareth.

She grew up on Long Island and in Cazenovia, near Syracuse, and hated the academic side of high school. Arriving at Nazareth at age 17, “I loved the intellectual stimulation,” says Sharkey, remembering the writing, thinking, reflection, and observation that were part of her courses. “It created a thirst for learning on my part.”

She endorses Nazareth’s focus on global knowledge and experiences for today’s students. “I think schools need to help introduce this global nature of the world into the curriculum,” she says. “You need to be able to work in a highly diverse, fast-paced context.”

After Nazareth, Sharkey earned a master’s in public administration from Russell Sage College and a doctorate in organization development from Benedictine University.

She is proud of the leaders she has helped develop—and from whom, in turn, she has learned—as well as of research she’s done and her ability to help create or shape great organizations. During her tenure at HP, the company was recognized on the Fortune 20 list of companies for developing leaders. At GE Capital, she established a leadership development effort that was named a best practice by then-CEO Jack Welch. She is also grateful for mentors along the way, including a former boss named Tom Sharkey, who became her spouse.

These days, based in North Carolina, Sharkey is managing director and partner for Achieveblue, a business management/strategy consulting firm whose clients include Corning, LexisNexis, and Sun Products. She is also on the Global Advisory Board of Executive Networks, an international organization that connects key human resource leaders from large corporations. Sharkey’s work includes building talent practices that drive business results, leading strategy workshops, providing coaching to improve leader skills, and giving keynote speeches.

“Leadership is both an art and a science,” says Sharkey. “I help organizations become more effective and be able to change more readily with the times.”

Chris Farnum is the content writer and editor for Nazareth’s marketing department.

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