Transformation Means in
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 have created new customer segments and expectations,
“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.
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,
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.
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
Leaders now support an environment that encourages and cross-pollinates
ideas from the ground and among different business disciplines and
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
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.
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
Peter Thewlis at the C-suite round