The rising economies of Asia are on explosive growth trajectories, with China, India and other emerging economies leading the charge.
Emerging markets are predicted by many experts to grow from about 30 to 50 per cent of global market capitalisation within 20 years — with Asia accounting for the majority of the expansion.
The speed of change and the scale of growth in Asia will create great opportunities — and real challenges.
It will require a new generation of leaders who are able to learn quickly and act wisely. More effective strategies are needed to develop that next generation, with special attention paid to the needs of specific countries.
A recent study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership and the Human Capital Leadership Institute found that a majority of Asian chief executive officers (CEOs) believe leadership shortages are a critical problem.
They view human resources (HR) as a major player in acquiring, developing and retaining the talent needed to fill the leadership pipeline.
What HR can do
To help build a culture of strong, effective leadership, HR professionals can do a number of things:
Get deliberate about career planning for all leadership levels;
Elevate rewards and recognition of good work;
Develop consistent performance review process that is aligned with business strategy objectives;
Focus on competency development and deployment at team/organisational level; and
Emphasise sourcing and recruiting.
The CEO’s role
At the same time, CEOs should set direction in areas that impact an organisation’s success and sustainability.
When it comes to developing talent, CEOs must provide overarching direction for people processes, support HR efforts to this end and encourage diversity and divergence of thought.
Constructive disagreements in a team make for a positive and engaged culture.
Expectations between the CEO and HR are bound to differ in every organisation, depending on its maturity and the level of economic development in a particular market.
For instance, HR in emerging market regions like India needs to balance how to utilise the promise of a young labour force while ensuring a relative lack of training and development does not become a detriment to performance.
Five key paradoxes
The study also yielded five key paradoxes for leadership development in Asia:
1. To foster learning, emphasise doing.
Leaders learn most from challenging experiences.
2. To accelerate development, slow down.
Leaders develop faster when they reflect deeply and see the impact of their decisions.
3. To excel at the task, harness relationships.
The best leaders focus on developing their people skills and achieving impact through others.
4. To achieve success, learn from failure.
Leaders can learn and grow when things go wrong – and then should share what they learn.
5. To develop greatness, practice humility.
Leaders model humility and constantly learn.
For Singaporean leaders, the study revealed two additional areas of concern that can be addressed through leadership development:
Managing stakeholders, and
Developing a boundary-spanning mindset.
Fortunately, opportunities to improve at working with stakeholders are abundant, closely tied to issues involving social responsibility and environment sustainability, community relations, customer service and supply chain management.
Meanwhile, in today’s hyper-competitive world, Singapore’s small size and limited resources make it imperative for public service leaders to work closely with the business and social sectors to define and pursue a long-term vision of continued greatness.
A boundary-spanning mindset makes that collaboration possible.
Indeed, the link between these two is also increasingly critical.
Stakeholder engagements help Singaporean leaders develop a boundary-spanning mindset — and strengthen the leadership effectiveness and the sustainability of organisations — as they rise with the tide of growth and opportunity throughout Asia.