What Leadership Transformation Means in APAC What Leadership Transformation Means in APAC Grace Abella-Zata

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  • What Leadership Transformation Means in APAC Grace Abella-Zata | May 26, 2018

    IRC’s Asia Pacific (APAC) member firms and guests gathered in Singapore for its March 2018 C-suite roundtable themed “Leadership Transformation: Strategies in a Disruptive, Uncertain and Digital World.” IRC explored how different variables impact leadership in APAC, a dynamic region characterized by one of the higher growth rates in the world.

    Keynote speaker, thyssenkrupp AG Asia Pacific CEO Vivek Bhatia, shared how the €40 billion diversified industrial multinational that has thrived under three previous industrial revolutions is planning to take on Industry 4.0.

    Some basic business philosophies remain relevant.

    “Leaders must think beyond the products they want to provide but focus instead on the solutions to respond to the needs of customers,” he said. Bhatia shared four main leadership imperatives to survive and thrive during Industry 4.0.

    Leadership competencies of the future

    With the volatility and chaos characterising the business environment, it is even more important for leaders to set a clear purpose and direction for everyone in the organisation.

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  • Innovation is one value that is a clear differentiator for many companies today. thyssenkrupp is one of the few industrial companies consistently named among the top 25 most innovative companies in the world.

    The corporation has been innovating and embracing digitalization to address the needs of its customers through a variety of initiatives, for example, via its web portal titled “Materials for Me” where customers can order thyssenkrupp’s products online. In another example, the ERP system at leading manufacturing locations is connected to clients and suppliers to allow large degrees of operational flexibility to customers that traditional B2B environments cannot deliver.

    The second key competency of leadership is to lead from the front and drive outcomes. The speed with which new challenges mushroom holds leaders more accountable. But the best leaders also join their teams in the trenches to solve bottlenecks within and outside the organisation enabling positive outcomes.

    The third key imperative of leadership is securing talent pipeline. A talent management development plan must make individuals aware, not only of their performance, but the alignment of their own values to that of the organisation.

    Companies today face tough competition from leading digital innovators and start-ups like Google, Facebook, Uber, and other disruptive businesses in hiring tech-savvy millennials.

    Talents now are also less drawn by stability, a long history, or a big name. Instead, many are attracted by a company’s values and employment brand. Leaders have to be more innovative about communicating its value proposition to employees and talents and be aware of how their companies appear on social media platforms where the current generation decides which career and firm they will pursue.

    The fourth and final leadership imperative is the alignment between a leader’s personal values and that of the organisation’s.

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  • Vivek Bhatia, IRC APAC Regional Meeting 2018 in Singapore

    “This is about the individual himself. If the leader does not reflect the culture or values that he expects from his organization, it is impossible to expect subordinates to accept them. Any broad change in the organisation that is expected to last for years to come has to have the buy-in of leaders.” - Bhatia

    The six themes that have arisen in the midst of the latest industrial revolution were discussed at IRC APAC’s C-suite Roundtable:

    • New technologies • Constant change • Connect & collaborate • Markets & competition • Learning & daring • Uncertainty & unknown elements in the marketplace

    These changes create new challenges for leadership. Thus, it becomes important for executive search firms to contribute to building a more relevant profile of the leaders of today.

    New technologies

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  • New technologies have created new customer segments and expectations, and competitors.

    “Technology may be a threat to individual jobs, but if taken as an enabler in business, can create new roles and skills, and new jobs,” IRC Malaysia and Thailand founding partner Manish Mehta said.

    CropLife Asia executive director Tan Siang Hee said his business, which largely communicates and shares Good Agricultural Practices with farmers, is seeing both its B2B and B2C supply chains shortened thanks to the prevalence of smartphones in the farming community.

    Meanwhile, big data is helping the agriculture industry reduce costs and increase efficiencies for distributors from the mix and tailoring products to farmers needs in sync with crop season.

    With the added technology piece, businesses can now hire for jobs that did not exist five years ago. This nature of work will continuously evolve, as more facets of industry become digitised.

    As formal education providers are slow to evolve, companies must take an active role in upskilling employees for new roles. HR is also called upon to help in the design and definition of new roles.

    Constant change

    Changes in the business environment are no longer sporadic but are happening constantly and at a more frenzied pace. This requires more agile responses to developments like the emergence of new competitors, new technological discoveries, the change or addition of distribution models for consumer products and the increasing sophistication of consumers, including millennials.

    Multinationals are moderating bureaucratic tendencies by empowering local leaders in the APAC region to make quicker decisions, based on a more intimate knowledge of local market and competition. Global companies are also working closely with consultants or “experimental labs” to quickly respond to problems and opportunities. Singapore, for instance to companies which physically house start-ups. This allows business leaders to work directly and quickly with innovators.

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  • IRC APAC Regional Meeting 2018 in Singapore

    Connect & collaborate

    The millennia-old style of alpha management, hierarchy, and traditional command-and-control structure is giving way to shared leadership styles of open communication and employee empowerment, disrupting cultural stereotypes.

    Leaders now support an environment that encourages and cross-pollinates ideas from the ground and among different business disciplines and industries.

    The IRC roundtable examined the evolution of the 130-year-old DSM (previously Dutch Steel and Mining) in making changes to better suit markets and the environment and be profitable while adhering to sustainability principles.

    Sticking to its core purpose of Sustainability, DSM shaved off companies that did not align with the new business direction and brought more green businesses on board. It also grew CEOs from within. DSM's core purpose is built on a foundation of People, Profit and Planet, around which choices and decisions are made.

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  • Evolutions such as this call on leaders who embody two key traits: living the core values of the organisation, internally and externally; and being proactive in planning for and anticipating potential risks much ahead. Internally, leaders have to ensure that the employees are invested in the organisation, with a shared sense of destiny, which then inspires them to welcome an empowered culture.

    Such kind of leadership provokes critical thinking: challenging people, asking questions, and empowering them to be active participants in thinking through difficult business issues,” IRC Malaysia and Thailand Managing Partner, Raj Kumar Paramanathan said.

    On the flip side, transformation initiatives risk being delayed, if the leadership team overlooks the undercurrents that influence operations and underestimates the amount of time it will take to achieve goals. Execution teams can face enormous disruptions or distractions in the transformation journey. Identifying the support that employees need, whether coaching, new skills training or technology will reduce the likelihood of failure.

    Markets & Competition

    Compared to previous industrial revolutions, Industry 4.0 is making competition fiercer and multi-directional. The focus now has shifted to Value- to-Customer (and not product).

    International Hotel Supply Company, which distributes products to hotel chains globally, is seeing the surge in Airbnb listings affecting their business.

    “Given that the largest Airbnb market in Asia is Indonesia, we are evolving to find more sophisticated ways to reach out to this new set of potential customers. In the USA, we have added a B2C platform to our traditional B2B model,” International Hotel Supply Company managing director (Asia) Miles Wilson shared.

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  • Peter Thewlis at the C-suite round