The challenge is to develop leaders fast enough to sustain and optimise the opportunities that result from explosive economic growth
The explosive growth rate in emerging markets is obvious to all. The growth rates in Brazil, Russia, India and China over the last decade have been dramatic; equally dramatic are the early rates in other emerging markets such as Turkey, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. How these disparate emerging markets approach human resources and leadership development depends heavily on their respective growth engines. Countries such as India and Singapore that increasingly rely on intellectual capital as the engine of growth tend to focus on human resource and leadership issues more heavily than do countries whose growth engines are based in natural resources (Nigeria and Indonesia) or low cost labour (China and Bangladesh).
In emerging economies, the development of leaders is critical for sustainable growth and wealth creation. The challenge lies in developing quality leaders fast enough to sustain and optimize the opportunities that result from explosive economic growth. Two problems are at the root of this leadership disequilibrium. Firstly, in many emerging economies, the brilliant individual leaders who founded successful companies, still retain... much of the leadership control, resulting in the failure of grooming next generation leaders. And secondly, potential leaders fail to fully mature and ultimately fail as leaders because they are propelled too quickly through the critical development stages such as technical expertise, basic management skills, basic leadership experience and finally, strategic leadership.
There are several best practices that may help solve these problems. Senior leaders should evolve a systematic approach to succession planning and leadership development in emerging economies. These efforts are best not left to chance. They should planned and executed with the same rigor with which any other critical resource is managed. Also, senior leaders should find mechanisms to bring in leadership and leadership development capabilities. One way to accomplish this is by way of a ‘two-in-the-box’ process in which an experienced leader co-manages a part of the business with a less experienced but emerging leader. Senior leaders may also consider temporarily bringing on board an expatriate executive who has a track record of developing exceptional leaders. Or they may undertake a ’lend-exchange’ program in which they exchange emerging leaders with well developed companies. Finally, senior leaders may engage consultants who understand the logic and process of leadership development and who will adopt his or her experience to the emerging company’s culture. In the same spirit, they may send some of their emerging leaders to a university-based leadership development program.
In emerging economies, the creation of high performance culture through effective HR practices is equally central to business success. Frequently, economic development requires subtle or even dramatic shifts in values. Such value transitions might include from slow to fast; from entitlement to performance; from status-quo to innovation and continuous improvement; from encumbering bureaucracy to institutional efficiency; from situational ethics to disciplined legal enforcement; and from exclusion based on gender or ethnicity to inclusion based on capability and results.
To make such transitions a reality, best-in-class HR experts need to know the business in great detail so that they understand the culture that their specific companies must have in order to be successful. This sures rigor and discipline to align their HR practices with the requirements of the desired culture. Recruitment, performance management, rewards, job design, organizational structure, communication, training, leadership development and succession planning processes are all aligned to create the culture that is required for sustainable high performance.
To become familiar with how to make such processes happen, several options are available:
• They can leverage best practices from local or foreign companies.
• They can access or attend university courses with faculty who have researched on best HR practices, who have practical and documented experience in applying what they teach.
• They can likewise leverage the knowledge and skills of consultants with global experience in HR strategy development.
• Most importantly, they can place knowledgeable, capable and business savvy people in senior HR positions who understand the logic and process of culture creation.
This is a time of great opportunity for countries and companies in emerging markets. However, to optimize on these opportunities, they must invest in leadership development and in effective, culture-focused human resource practices.
Dr. Wayne Brockbank is a principal of The RBL Group, a strategic HR and leadership systems advisory firm, and a Clinical Professor of Business at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He is co-author (with five senior partners at RBL, including Dave Ulrich) of the book HR Transformation.