Wide beaches, hot rhythms, soccer and the world-wide famous carnival – Brazil is known to be loud, colorful and charmingly chaotic. Silke Körner, L&D consultant, lived there for some years and reveals in this post how she experiences leadership development and training in Brazil and how digitalization and leadership 4.0 are influencing the country.

Guest article

This article is written by Silke Körner. Originally from Germany, she used to work in Brazil as a trainer and L&D consultant for many years before she moved back to Cologne in 2016. Silke Körner is co-founder of two training companies (Brazil and Germany) specialized in experiential learning methodology, leadership and team training and she is co-founder and president of European Ropes Course Ass. – ERCA. Since 2015 she is working as MDI Senior Training & Development Consultant for Central Europa and is a specialist for South America and Brazil.

Significance of international leadership development in Brazil

I see that Brazilian organizations are currently very concerned with the development of their leaders. I think Brazilians have always liked to look overseas for inspiration and different ways of doing things. Leadership development here has certainly always been referenced to what was happening abroad – and more specifically, in the US. But there is also an acute awareness that Brazil has its very own culture that needs to be taken into account and used to its strength. So any approach to leadership development will have to go through a process of “tropicalisation” to be accepted and work here. A cookie cutter approach implemented by HQ from abroad will most likely fail.

The biggest challenges in Brazil

Doing business in Brazil has very high costs attached to it (labelled here as “Custo Brasil”): It is caused by the extremely complex and rather inefficient bureaucracy and overregulation, cascading, complex and excessive taxation, often bad infrastructure or even insufficiently trained front-line staff. Taking a close look you can also observe systemic corruption and a government that tends to intervene in its own economy for political reasons. This is a historical fact and has always been a disadvantage for Brazil. In times of cheap labor costs and fairly long product life-cycles, these costs diminished margins but nevertheless allowed great profits.

But nowadays, digitalization has tremendously increased interconnectedness, (often just virtual) mobility and new solutions – and will continue to do so. Thus, even though Brazil is a huge market with incredible potential, competition for products and services is fierce. Investors from outside of Brazil will now have access to the same quality of product or service elsewhere in the world. Moreover, those services and products will often be cheaper and quicker to have. But also Brazilian companies will (have to) look into accessing more and cheaper goods and services abroad – or find completely new solutions and markets to raise their competitiveness and profit margins.

Digital and agile leadership skills thus are even more important for Brazilian businesses than for organizations in Europe or the US. Staying on top of the game will be a matter of survival for many organizations here.

Business in Brazil can be subject to high bureaucracy and over-regulation

Complex and over-regulated – Business in Brazil

Leadership 4.0 and digital leadership – Real revolution?

The interconnected world we live in accelerates the pace of change in an unprecedented way: The way people and businesses – even gadgets (“internet of things”) – communicate with one another, what people expect from products or services, the types of those products and services, social norms, constructs and behaviors.

If organizations or their leaders believe they can coast this wave of development, being carried with it without having to work to keep up with it, in my view they are mistaken. For me, digital leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being right there at the spearhead of each new development. But it does mean riding at the front of the wave and not falling behind. And if you don’t invest some serious energy into staying up there, you will inevitably lose momentum. I am sure that markets, businesses, societies and people’s relationships will dramatically change in the years to come through the digital revolution.

The value of classroom training in a digitalized world

Someone asked me recently if classroom trainings are still up-to-date or if they will vanish soon because of the disruptive technical changes we’re facing. Talking not only about Brazil, my answer was: I guess it’s both. Classroom trainings currently are probably mostly outdated… but they will not vanish. Many studies have proven that an integral part of learning is based on relationships – with teachers, peers or people we ourselves instruct in newly learned topics. In addition, although IT has created completely new and still evolving ways to interact with each other, I believe that the human being in its core is a social creature that needs real physical and face-to-face contact to function best. So even though I believe that inevitably classroom trainings will diminish to make room for more e-learning and self-directed studies, without classroom activities, training will be less effective, less enriching and less long-lasting. But to fill this gap effectively, classroom teaching has to finally move away from 20th century approaches.

Brazilian soccer fan

Knowing about local politics, music or soccer results can open doors in Brazil

How to do up-to-date classroom trainings in Brazil

Relationship is everything here!  Brazilians love to engage with each other socially, make jokes and chat about common interest topics like politics or soccer. A trainer coming in from abroad is well advised to read up on current political and social issues before getting here. To have at least a basic understanding of Brazilian culture (music, soccer, BBQ) and to know a few basic words will get you a long way. Brazilians in general love their country and like anyone who shows interest and appreciation.

Hence, before engaging in any professional talk or activity, it is crucial to establish rapport on a social level. Because relationships are central to any interaction, feedback – especially if it can be seen as criticism – can be taken personally very quickly. This asks for a lot of empathy and delicacy.

Quick tip!

Quick tips are inspirations and ideas directed to you, dear reader of this article. Clear, easy and not taking more than 10 minutes, our experts invite you to improve, enhance or develop your business and leadership life right now, right here.


Contrast your assumptions with current beliefs and hypes

That’s how I do it: Going back to the impact of the digitalization on T & D and leadership, I like to check my assumptions around basic principles – and contrast them with current beliefs and hypes to gain clarity: How do people really learn – in any situation? Why should we use a specific new tool or approach: Just because it’s new and fascinating – or does it really add value and support the objective? If yes, how? How do I define “leadership” broadly – and what do those say that are being “led”? Are there any principles that remain robust independent of time and circumstances?

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