Historically, leadership was domestic; but today leadership is all about thinking globally.
--BY SUJIT MUNDUL
Over the past few decades global businesses have gone through a transformation in that the challenges being encountered by leaders are very different today for keeping the companies competitive. Accordingly, these changes will impact leadership styles in the next few decades.
According to Dr Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s top CEO coaches, the issues of leaders in the emerging markets are not very different from those of global leaders. In fact he pointed out that there may be cultural differences among the people in this Sub-Continent (he meant India, China and other developing countries in the region), USA and France; however CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies have a lot in common. Most of them are fluent in English and have a western education, even though many of them have had their initial schooling in their respective countries.
Seemingly, insecurity and fear are not the major problems that leaders around the world have; their problem lies in their ego. They want to be the best, be right all the time; they are mostly argumentative and averse to listen. Dr Goldsmith feels that most of them live in bubbles.
Historically, leadership was domestic and restricted to one’s own little area; but today leadership is all about thinking globally. Leaders, perforce, are required to work across cultures and therefore need to fully appreciate the cross cultural influences and sensitivities associated with them. Unlike in the past where leaders forged no partnerships ---- today business is all about alliances. Leaders need to be aware as to how the evolving technologies are changing the paradigm of different businesses even if they are not in the technology business. Looking deep into the thing, shared leadership is all about asking, listening and learning from those around us, not just telling people what to do and how to do it because leaders today manage knowledge workers who know more than them.
There are five things a future CEO should have that were not required in the past- Global thinking, cross-cultural appreciation, tech-savy, building relationship, and shared relationships.
Before I conclude this article, I would like to share one Q & A that Dr Goldsmith had with a business reporter a few years ago in India. He was asked, “What is the key to employee engagement?”
His response was, “While companies and leaders should do everything they can to engage employees, it is just one half of the equation. Employees should do their bit too to complete the equation. Companies must ask themselves, am I doing the best to engage myself – engagement has to be a two way effort.
The key to employee engagement is to evaluate oneself everyday on six questions that begin with “Did I do my best?” Which is what the Bhagavad Gita advocates?
The questions are- Did I do my best to set clean goals for myself; to make progress towards goal achievement; to find meaning in my work ; to make myself happy; to build positive relationships ; to be fully engaged.
It is a reality that today’s business leaders do face the issue of employee engagement even in successful organisations and that the leaders of tomorrow will have to bear in mind this aspect as a critical success factor amongst other points to remain competitive in the fast changing world.
I think the following are some factors that might play crucial roles in the future:
- Shift in industrial activities from manufactured goods to services ;
- Rapid changes in technology will be the order of any business and the leadership must not shy away from this challenge;
- Pyramid structure of management (even in so called matrix organisations) in all likelihood, will give way to decentralised power sharing;
- Shareholders are one amongst the several stakeholders, and some external stakeholders in all probability will be opposed to shareholders interests;
- Visionary leadership style may no longer remain valid; collective and collaborative styles will be a prominent feature going forward;
- Future leaders of industries must have the willingness to learn on the job and adopt new structures and systems to remain contemporary and competitive.
The author is former member of Board of Directors of Standard Chartered Bank, Nepal.