We need a new generation of leaders

Article written by: Shalene Sogoni

The complexity, volatility and unpredictability of emerging markets, along with other market dynamics, are forcing organisations to critically reflect on new approaches to leadership development training and talent management.

There is an urgent need for a new generation of leaders with complex and adaptive thinking skills, and individuals who can unlock growth for their companies in creative ways.

Importantly, leadership which unlocks growth and innovation must also be mindful of social and environmental justice.

The speed of growth in emerging markets often renders our traditional leadership development models redundant. New approaches to leadership development are required.Today, human resources (HR), skills development practitioners and talent managers have to develop the leadership pipeline fast, and when external recruitment is not an option, the talent pool can either be new emerging talent or long-serving employees.

This can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, upcoming young executives with high potential are hastily promoted into senior leadership positions, and often their leadership capabilities are undeveloped and they lack emotional intelligence.

On the other hand, and perhaps as a result of the talent wars, organisations often promote long-serving employees to senior leadership positions. And, while they are strong performers in a chosen vocation, this does not mean that they are good leaders. The impact of both these dynamics can have a devastating effect on organisations with an undesired trickle-down effect of smothering staff morale and innovation, often impacting on bottom-line performance.

In an extensive research project involving 150 executives and their staff across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa, authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown in their book Multipliers categorise leaders as either multipliers or diminishers. Diminishers underutilise people and leave capacity on the table, while multipliers leverage resources by increasing intelligence in people throughout organisations, leaving employees smarter and more capable.

Profiling leadership

Professor Kim Cameron – a pioneer of the positive organisational development school of thought – differentiates between positively and negatively energised leaders. His research indicates significant organisational benefits from energy networks created by positively energised leaders, while viewing negatively energised leaders as toxins.

The importance of accurately profiling leadership candidates then becomes very clear with the question arising: What does a positively energised and multiplier future leader in an emerging market look like? This question is important, because it will help organisations and HR practitioners to realign their outlook and approaches to leadership development, talent identification and staff promotion.

Firstly, emerging market leaders are visionary and imaginative. They are thinkers who dream big and find solutions to problems affecting their organisations, teams, products and services.

Next, good leaders for emerging markets create an environment where collective leadership flourishes. In short, the best leaders are those who understand that collective action, dialogue and collaboration are absolutely necessary to achieve organisational goals.

An additional feature of good leadership is the ability to create happy, stimulating and safe working environments for employees and their teams. Good leaders are experts in creating experiences and events that bind team members together, and they understand how critical these experiences are for talent retention.

Closely related to this is empathy. Empathetic leaders can view situations from many different vantage points. This enables them to understand perspectives other than their own, enabling them to create more authentic relationships and stronger engagements with colleagues and team members.

Good moral judgments

Good leaders have solid values and make good moral judgments, and this is becoming a very rare commodity in the market place – at least in South Africa. Corruption is an explosive issue in emerging markets, according to the study findings and research projects which show that corruption is higher in emerging markets than developed nations.

In South Africa, we are all too familiar with corruption in all forms. Bribery, nepotism and fraud. It is a general cancer eating away at many organisations and establishments, even on an international level. Perhaps the most clear and global example this year was Fifagate. Good leaders will not succumb to temptations, because they have solid integrity.

As indicated earlier, emerging markets are intricate and unpredictable ecosystems in which the organisations and leaders have to operate. The best leader is a clairvoyant who taps into his or her instinctive leadership. This individual uses intuitive intelligence for decision-making. In the past, leadership was logical and rational, and decision-making was based on data and evidence. But mounting evidence through neuroscience is moving intuition higher up the leadership ladder. Intuitive leadership allows leaders to anticipate and forecast change, which puts the organisation in a better position to exploit new opportunities and management threats.

Finally self-aware of their own limitations, strengths, weaknesses, and prejudices – this realistic assessment of the self and its effect on others helps leaders to fill the gaps. Should a candidate be lacking in the qualities of a “positively energised leader” or “multiplier”, coaching and mentorship interventions would in most cases assist with the personal transformation required. Unfortunately a small percentage of individuals are not coachable, because they lack the capacity for honest self-observation, reflection and behavioural modification. Such individuals should be guided away from positions of influence within organisations.

New ways

There are also three future trends for leadership development in emerging markets, which require vertical development. This will include awakening leaders to do things in new ways and encouraging them to analyse and challenge old assumptions.

This process is also accompanied by testing and experimentation with new assumptions to explore alternatives. The processes will unlock a new level of development or leadership logic, which kicks in after some trial and error.

* Shalene Sogoni is a KwaZulu-Natal business development executive for the NMMU Business School.

Article sourced: Business Report