Are Asia-Pacific leaders still lagging in digital readiness?

Digital leadership skills are still lacking in the region, even though they will be essential to any organisation looking to thrive in Industry 4.0.
By: | February 19, 2019


Are business leaders across the Asia-Pacific ready to take their organisations forward?

Recent studies – covering Singapore, Australia, China, Malaysia, India, Japan, and Hong Kong – have shown that the answer is a firm “not yet”, with leaders in the region being far from “digital-ready” at the present time.

This lack of preparedness could result in leaders derailing digital initiatives – because they will likely perpetuate outdated, legacy ways of working.

Much of the region is struggling with the scale of change required and looking for a way through the complexity.


Uncertainty over structure

Countries like Singapore might be at the forefront of digital transformation, with its efforts towards creating a ‘Smart Nation’ well underway at the enterprise and government levels.

However, a comparison of Singapore leaders against the great digital leader archetype shows significant gaps and the need for leaders in the country to make substantial changes to the way they work.

Singaporean leaders have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, shown by a high independence driver. This spirit is a strong motivator for leaders.

Finding ways to embrace it more frequently in more situations will help grow their capacity for working through and making decisions in uncertain conditions, as well as fostering breakthrough solutions.

However, they also prefer to operate in a very structured environment that is defined by rules and regulations. This will limit their ability to drive innovative and new ideas.


Failure to lead by example

According to a poll of 2,000 business and HR professionals, a staggering 59% of respondents thought senior leaders did little to promote a culture of innovation across their organisations or lead by example.

While parts of the region showed strong leadership and imagination in preparing for the future of work, the report highlights other concerns. For example:

  • Just over half (51%) of respondents felt their organisation offered very little or no flexibility in when or where they work – a worrying result when top-performing companies across the globe are using technology to enable flexible working
  • Another 61% thought their companies poorly organised remote collaboration and communication
  • Malaysia and Thailand performed poorly across most areas of the survey, although there are signs in both countries that leaders are ready to take action and move with the times
  • Out of a list of several obstacles to innovation and transformational progres that companies face, the top three: management commitment, clarity of direction and company culture / climate – are the main responsibility of senior management


What now?

Old-fashioned mindsets don’t have a place in the digital future.

As Cargill Asia-Pacific CEO, Peter Van Deursen, told HRM Magazine Asia last year, “Leaders that play to win are always stretching themselves to the next level. That energy spreads to the people around them as well.”

Leaders have to set the example in taking risks and embracing new ways of working – or risk being made obsolete.

The first-ever HR Festival Asia, brought to you by the combined experience of HR Technology Conference & Exposition (US) and HR Summit (Asia), is your one-stop resource to prepare for Industry 4.0.

The event’s dedicated CxO Symposium, specially curated for senior business and management professionals, will delve into topics such as design thinking, virtual organisations, neuro-agility, and other cutting-edge trends that can help C-suite professionals strengthen their organisation’s capabilities from the top. 

For more information, visit