The critical few - Self-disruptive leaders
When it comes to the English language, more often than not, the excessive usage of a word leads to it losing its significance. The same can be said about the word ‘disruption’ in today's business context as disruptions are slowly becoming the norm within many modern-day business sectors. The advent of what many have been calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the collective impact of changing technological prowess of modern day businesses and evolving talent preferences, holds the key to just that — to disrupt how current businesses perform, earn profits, interact with their consumers, and take talent decisions today. And to do so successfully and often proactively, it is important to have qualified leadership at the helm of it all to guide such disruptions to meaningful ends, or perhaps a leadership structure that remains open to ‘self-disruption’ as a way to remain ahead of the curve. But before we begin to define what constitutes a ‘self-disruptive’ leader, it is important to see how the current crop of business leaders have been performing.
Changing the scope of modern-day leadership
In a recent global leadership study done by Korn Ferry, more than two thirds (69 percent) of investors within the Asia Pacific region highlighted their dissatisfaction with the current crop of leadership. Given how the future is shaping up, many in the report stated that today’s private-sector leadership is “unfit” for the future. The study, aimed at capturing investor perception on the future of businesses and on the capability of the current leadership to navigate incoming changes, paints a grim picture. In India, over 72 percent of the investors interviewed stated that today's corporate leadership is incapable of building an organization ready for the future. According to a Korn Ferry study, The Self-Disruptive Leader that reflected the sentiment of nearly 800 investors more than 150,000 leaders – corporate leadership is ill-prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow and “A majority of leaders can’t make decisions and take smart actions quickly enough, motivate people effectively, or build trust — all of which is needed to ensure their organization’s survival into the future.”
As market changes are redefining business processes, a corporate leadership structure that remains responsive will always play a catch-up game. Given how corporations today have become the economic engine to India’s economic growth story, a lack of preparedness on side of leaders could have long term impacts. The Korn Ferry report highlights that the investors in APAC are almost overwhelmingly aware of the urgency of the situation and hence the critical nature of building right leaders for tomorrow. Globally, this is a major concern as investors in countries like China (96 percent), Indonesia (91 percent), Singapore (91 percent) and India (90 percent) believe organizations are currently being confronted by disruptive challenges and are anxious about the lack of future-ready leaders in their markets.
A majority of leaders can't make decisions and take smart actions quickly enough, motivate people effectively, or build trust all of which is needed to ensure their organization's survival into the future
Talent and Priorities
For many across the globe, the ability to prepare for future challenges hinges on the short-term pressures of corporate leaders. Over 70 percent of investors reported that pressure for short-term performance far outweighs the need to be future looking and this has worked against the ability of leaders to deliver innovation. Aspects such as building digital literacy and evolving business processes can only be undertaken if short-term pressures are balanced with long-term goals of survival, and by tapping into latent opportunities. And for companies to do be able to do so, corporate and business leaders have a big role to play.
The importance of corporate leadership is highlighted not only across regions of APAC but around the world. Over 78 percent investors interviewed globally in the Korn Ferry report insist that the CEO remains a critically important figure when deciding in which companies to invest, and 83 percent cite an exceptional CEO as critical to an organization’s success in disruptive times. Such dependence in the face of creeping incompetence to be future-ready is a cause of concern among investors.
The need for transformation will make leadership more important to a company's performance within the next three years
The ability of senior business leaders to navigate the uncertain times has been brought under the scanner on multiple instances. For example, when it came to dealing with the disruptive nature of digital technologies on reshaping business processes, an IMD study noted a large gap in comfortability levels across CEOs. The study revealed that even though over 92 percent of leaders reported to be feeling the full force of digital disruption, less than 15 percent of them claimed to be “very prepared” to guide their companies through such market changes. In addition to such disruption trends, instances of cyber-attacks are on the rise and millennial talent preferences are evolving.
Investors across APAC recognize that the need for transformation will only increase the demand for effective leadership in the very near future. The Korn Ferry report highlights how globally, investors see the critical need for future-ready leaders to face the problems of tomorrow. Over two-thirds (66 percent) state that they value future vision and orientation over past performance as a key metric while looking at CEOs of companies to invest in. The report also noted that over 69 percent say the need for transformation is going to make leadership more important to company performance within the next three years. The challenge then remains of finding and building the right leaders. The importance of the HR teams to create effective leadership development programs and support them with robust, data-driven succession planning will increase in the coming time. While a recent Skillsoft report notes that only 41 percent of leadership development programs are successful and effective in creating the right leaders, HR professionals have a growing challenge in front of them.
To tackle the problem of leaders being ill-equipped for the uncertainties of tomorrow is by building the attitude of “self-disruption” within leaders. Called by many other names before, the idea is to focus on developing leaders with the right balance of technical management skills and an adaptive attitude towards the changing business environment. It calls for leaders to be “self-disruptive” by being agile learners who possess the right social and emotional intelligence while being able to proactively modify attitudes and methods to make best of a technologically evolving business environment. Although India stood among the top few nations with the highest number of leaders who could be categorized as “self-disruptive” at 17 percent along with nations like Singapore, a significant portion of the journey still remains.