New Zealand PM’s Jacinda Ardern’s decisive and compassionate handling of the Christchurch mosque attacks was lauded globally. The viral reaction seemed to illustrate just how desperate the world is for strong leadership. This is equally true in the public sector (think Zuma, Brexit, Trump) and the private sector which is facing a slew of issues from corruption to continuous technology-driven disruption.

Mark Braithwaite, Managing Director, Asia Pacific at Odgers Berndtson and author of e-book Leadership Disrupted, said recent research by the global executive search firm found that many leaders aren’t in a confident position currently.

“We conducted face-to-face research with 70 of the top CEOs based out of the Asia Pacific region. Our goal was to take their collective leadership temperature and uncover the main issues they’re facing.”

He said it is commonly accepted that 30 to 40% of today’s leaders are failing on their mandate. And around 40% of the current Fortune 500 companies are expected to go out of business in the next ten years because they won’t adapt well enough to the changes in society.

“Our research delved deeply into the why. Why even our most skilful and experienced leaders are struggling.”

Mindset, not skillset, is the problem

Braithwaite cited one example from the research process. “I interviewed the president of a $20-billion company who has a leadership team of 200 people. He said while they were all excellent when they were hired, today only 50% of those leaders are fit for the future. This particular leader says the problem is not their skillset, but their mindset.”

Key findings

The key findings from the research are evident in these verbatim responses from the CEOs interviewed:

  • ‘We built a structure five years ago that was right, but today it is not. Our business plan from 2016 is not worth the paper it is written on.’
  • ‘Disruption is by far the most important topic – we are a disruptor, but we are always in danger of being disrupted by others.’
  • ‘The biggest challenge is the mindset change. People are comfortable when things are defined.’
  • ‘Young people have high expectations of me as a leader. If I don’t agree with them, they may walk away from the company rather than their idea.’

Troubles with strategy, talent and leadership

The research showed that strategy, talent and leadership were three key areas standing in the way of leaders thriving in a world of disruption, complexity and uncertainty.

Braithwaite continues, “Mature companies are struggling to implement the kind of fluid strategic approach needed today, with many hanging on to the defunct five-year plan approach. Sometimes, a model can seem to be working and this makes it hard to move away from it. But the question is, how long will it work for and will you be caught short if you don’t adapt?”

He said in terms of talent, employees expect a lot more from employers.

“As well as increased expectations, the skillsets companies need are changing and leaders often don’t have a good grasp on the new skillset required.”

Leadership demands a whole different approach and mindset. “The principles of leadership haven’t changed, but leaders have never operated in an environment that is evolving so rapidly. In the past, life was relatively static – today we need to reinvent the wheel on an almost daily basis.”

The model to measure mindset

How do you measure mindset when filling a position? Skillset is relatively easy to assess but how do you test mindset? Chania Stempowski, joint Managing Director of Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa, says that off the back of the research, the group senior leadership team have developed the Odgers Berndtson LeaderFit™ Model and Profile: "It specifically addresses the mindset question by measuring mindset and agility to assess a candidate’s readiness to lead in a time of disruption."

The model evaluates an individual’s capability in terms of intellectual capacity and flexibility, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills, resilience and the ability to deal with challenging situations, as well as motivation and the discipline to learn and relearn.

We’ll share more details of the LeaderFit™ model as well as how successful leaders are leading in a disrupted world in an upcoming Insight.

Find out more about LeaderFit now

Chania Stempowski

Chania is the joint Managing Director for Sub Saharan Africa, based in Cape Town, where she leads the Retail & Consumer practice and actively participates in the organisation’s financial management...

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