05 Jul How top Asian firms develop good leaders
They are adept at harmonising paradoxes and correcting imbalances in the organisation.
WHEN we ask CEOs in Asia what their key challenges are, many tell us the speed of business growth continues to outpace their ability to develop leaders. Hence, a strategic priority for many companies in the region is to accelerate the development of their leadership talent. In 2011, the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) teamed up with the Centre for Creative Leadership to study how leading companies in Asia build leaders faster than the competition. We uncovered five paradoxical insights (listed below) that are crucial for developing top leaders in Asia.
The good news is that many business leaders we speak to understand these insights conceptually; the bad news is that they struggle to implement these insights in practice. Earlier this year, HCLI conducted further research to understand the challenges in implementing these insights as well as specific action steps to overcome these challenges. We summarise our findings below.
- Paradox 1: To foster learning, emphasise doing
When we asked business leaders what accelerated their own development the most, many mentioned real-life experiences, such as turning a business around or overseeing a complex merger and acquisition. Yet, too many companies today still invest disproportionate time and money in classroom-based initiatives (for example, executive education courses or eMBA programmes). Why does this happen? One reason is that individuals often do not know which experiences are most important for their development, and how to identify and secure such experience. Our research suggests that leaders need to do two things: First, develop a firm vision of what you would like to achieve in your career. Second, create flexible plans that allow you to identify the experiences needed to achieve your career vision. Start by asking yourself a simple question: “What career accomplishments would make me and my loved ones most proud?”
- Paradox 2: To accelerate development, slow down
As we sought to understand how leaders accelerate their growth, we realised that the best leaders were able to slow down, engage in deep reflection, and plan for their longer-term development. While almost everyone we speak with recognises the importance of slowing down, many struggle to find the time to engage in deep reflection. We discovered that deep reflection need not be a time-consuming affair; we simply need to be smarter in when and where we engage in reflection. For example, it may help to take a few minutes to walk to a cafe rather than try to reflect in the office. Likewise, it helps to find an optimum time for reflection. Ask yourself: “What times of the day am I at my most alert and when there are least distractions?”