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Madsen, Mona Toft & Rask, Morten (2011) Global Leadership through Flexpatriation. Paper presented at Paper presented at EJIM IMD Conference, Lausanne, Switzerland

Global Leadership through Flexpatriation


Global leadership has been increasingly emphasized in the last decades in an effort to further enhance “true” globalization (e.g. Tichy et al. 1992 Osland, 2008). Global leaders with higher capabilities are demanded as firms have an increasing focus on international strategies (Black, Morrison & Gregersen, 1999). As one aspect of this tendency, expat assignments have been studied intensively (Bonache, 2006; Collings & Scullion, 2006). It has been highlighted that the costs of traditional expatriation are high for companies, and re-location of families, and the process of repatriation has also not been without problems (Collings, Scullion & Morley, 2007; Harvey & Novicevic, 2006). Moreover, the characteristics of certain markets might have changed, and demands for other global leader capabilities increased accordingly (Osland, 2008). In practice, a general tendency to an increased number of business flights is seen from the beginning of the 2000’s (Ruskov, 2011).

In parallel, literature on global leadership and international HRM has started to address the alternative assignments, and travelling arrangements. Frequent flyers, business commuters, and international business travellers are words that have been used to describe different forms of international business travelling. Mayerhofer and her colleagues (Mayerhofer, Hartmann & Herbert, 2004a; Mayerhofer, Hartmann, Michelitsch-Riedl & Kollinger, 2004b) used the label flexpatriation to define a certain form of business travelling characterized by no re-location, where flexpats are understood as “those who travel for brief assignments, away from their home base and across cultural or national border, leaving their family and personal life behind” (Mayerhofer et al., 2004a; Mayerhofer et al., 2004b).

However, research on this form of international arrangements still remains limited (Welch & Worm, 2006). In a career perspective, it can be argued that while most firms have policies for traditional expatriation, substantial fewer firm recons extended business travels by having policies for handling this (Brookfiled, 2011). Furthermore, no explicit formal procedures for handling compensation for flexpatriates seem to exist in the IHRM literature

The purpose of this paper is to further investigate the construct of flexpatriate assignments, and to contribute with suggestions on how flexpatriate assignments can be embedded in a global leadership strategy

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