A director of global operations works with colleagues while sitting at a table.

Understanding Career Paths to Become a Director of Global Operations


The current global business climate can best be described as turbulent. Tariffs, protectionism, and fundamental shifts in political alignments have created a great deal of uncertainty, which makes planning for the future difficult for all types of businesses. Despite the political dynamics, business globalization continues to gain momentum, according to the 2018 DHL Global Connectedness Index published in February 2019.

As global operations become more important to the overall success of companies, the roles and responsibilities of a director of global operations grow and evolve to address the new political and economic climate. Students and working professionals planning to pursue the director of global operations jobs should consider earning an advanced degree such as an online Master of Science in Leadership. Through the curriculum, they can better understand the many duties of the position and develop the skills and experience to qualify for the director of global operations positions.

The career trajectories of global operations directors are as unique as the organizations for whom they work. Still, the route to the position tends to follow certain patterns.

What Does a Director of Global Operations Do?

Operations directors ensure that all functions of an organization run smoothly. A fundamental task is segmenting the company’s operations into distinct functional areas. These typically include each of the firm’s product and services groups as well as accounting, human resources, sales and marketing, and various administrative departments. To monitor each operation and respond when challenges or potential problems arise, operations directors rely on a range of tools and techniques to keep the company’s domestic and international operations functioning optimally.

In some large organizations, the director of operations holds the title of chief operating officer (COO) but the duties of the two positions are identical. Companies with an extensive international presence are likely to title the position as director of global operations. Among the responsibilities of this position are reviewing financial statements, planning budgets, enhancing the efficiency of workers and departments, eliminating unnecessary expenses, and maximizing profits. The position ensures that the organization meets quality standards, increases productivity, cuts costs, and improves the flexibility of its global operations.

Much of the work of a director of global operations entails strategic planning. Developing strategies that achieve corporate goals requires that directors of global operations envision the organization as a system of interconnected parts linked by a complex network of dependencies. The strategies include the following:

  • Adopting customer-driven approaches agile enough to meet the ever-changing needs of global customers.
  • Identifying and nurturing the firm’s core competencies.
  • Analyzing market and production data to develop competitive priorities.
  • Overseeing the development and release of new products and services.

The Path to Becoming a Director of Global Operations

Professionals in operations management typically begin by working as either administrative services managers, operations research analysts, or in a similar mid-management position with duties such as analyzing business processes and recommending improvements. Operations managers, typically the next career advancement, work more closely with upper management and monitor many different functional units within a company.

Among the skills required to reach the position of director of global operations are the ability to thoroughly analyze data, think critically, and communicate clearly with senior managers, line workers, and stakeholders throughout the organization. Making operational decisions on a company-wide basis requires seeing the big picture. Global operations directors must understand and capitalize on both the natural competitiveness and cohesiveness among individual departments and workers so that all areas function smoothly and share a vision of the company’s objectives.

The journey to becoming a director of global operations begins by acquiring a solid educational foundation that emphasizes communication skills, strategic thinking, an unwavering commitment to ethics, and the ability to instill teamwork in employees to work together to achieve common goals. Building these and other leadership skills are at the heart of Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Leadership degree program.

Concentration options in the program include Human Resources Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Public Sector/Government/Military Leadership, and Leading Change Management Consulting. Students learn how to identify their leadership style, study topics in motivation and productivity, rewards and recognition, cultural awareness, and the importance of teamwork, and develop an understanding of leading organizations from a global perspective.

Director of Global Operations: Salary Information

As with many senior executive positions, compensation for directors of global operations varies based on experience as well as the company’s size, industry, and location.

According to 2019 data from the salary survey site PayScale, the median annual salary of global operations directors is $147,333. The median annual bonus for the position is $30,086, and the median profit sharing payment is $52,500 annually. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook reported the median annual wage of top executives at $104,980 as of May 2018. However, the BLS notes that “salary levels can vary substantially.” The BLS forecasts that the number of top executive positions will increase by 6% between 2018 and 2028, which is slightly higher than the 5.2% increase that the BLS projects for all occupations.

Learn More about a Master of Science in Leadership

Competition for positions as director of global operations is expected to increase as the number of  companies entering the global marketplace rise. However, demand remains strong for global operations directors who possess the right mix of skills and a proven track record in planning and implementing operational efficiencies. Also driving demand is the growing importance for nearly all businesses and industries to think globally and adopt appropriate international strategies.

The road to success as a global operations director is built on an educational foundation such as one gained through Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Leadership program. Learn more about how Norwich University helps students develop the knowledge and skills for success in professional business leadership.

Recommended Reading

International Business Strategies in a Globalizing World
The Pinnacle of Leadership: How to Become a CEO
Transactional vs. Transformational Leadership: A Comparison


DHL Global Connectedness Index of 2018, DHL
Operations Management, Inc.
The Director of Operations vs. the Chief Operating Officer, Houston Chronicle
5 Core Operational Strategies, Houston Chronicle
The Role of an Operations Manager, Houston Chronicle
Administrative Services Manager, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Operations Research Analyst, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Top Executives, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Global Operations Director Salary, PayScale
Employment Projections: 2018-2028 Summary, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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