What is the future of leadership development in APAC?

The COVID-19 pandemic has steered leadership in a new direction as leaders look to help navigate their organisations in the new normal.
By: | September 8, 2020

It’s a whole new world that businesses are embarking on amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is that leaders are still figuring out how to navigate the uncharted waters and steer their organisations forward safely and effectively.

No organisation in the world has been spared from the impact and changes that have been brought upon by the pandemic. Thus, the need for businesses to rethink their leadership has never been more pronounced.

While there is undoubtedly a global shift of direction in leadership, every region has been impacted in their own ways based on its organisational culture, people and mindset.

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During EuroCham’s “Leadership Development: World Class Excellence and the New Normal in Executive Education” webinar on September 4, leaders from the region shared their insights on the post COVID-19 era of leadership.

Michael Haberzettl, Head of Human Resources ASEAN at Siemens, believes the unique challenge for leaders is to balance between the need for digitalisation and building relations in a region that is known for its diversity of races, nationalities and cultures.

“What will make leaders successful in the region compared to the US and Europe is the ability to navigate through very complex relations within organisations where you have different nationalities and races,” he said.

“This is the most unique context of Southeast Asia which makes it different from other geographies. And this has become even more relevant now because despite all the technology which has been accelerated, it will lead to failure if we forget about relations. It’s about deploying technology but not compromising on working on relations.

“This combination of increasing your digital and technological competencies and at the same time working on relations is extremely hard and challenging. Not many leaders will be able to deliver on that,” he added.

Claudine Lewis, Senior Vice President, HR, Asia Pacific, Kuehne + Nagel (Asia Pacific), echoed Haberzettl’s views on the need to strike a balance between technology and human touch as she shared four key directions that the organisation is moving towards to future proof its leaders and people.

“One of the key directions we are looking at is around transformation. The world around us is moving so quickly. So how do our leaders create that environment where people are not scared of transformation? The second key is about a balance between e-touch and human touch. So how do we make sure that we still cultivate humanity to balance off the requirement of technology and e-commerce?” she explained.

“The third key is about innovation and growth. Our organisation needs to continue to develop and earn because at the end of the day it’s a commercial direction. A leader needs to continue to create an environment for innovation. With so much consolidation of organisations and with lots of startups coming in, how does a leader focus on a right startup that will build on the capabilities of the organisation?

“The fourth element is around people development. How do you as a leader attract, retain and grow talent and to create a pipeline for the future?” she concluded.

While businesses are facing a global crisis, there is no one-size-fit-all solution at the regional level. And one of the challenges that multinational companies face is entrusting their regional leaders to make key decisions based on their local knowledge and expertise.

Pascal de Petrini, Chairman Asia, Danone, said, “For MNCs, one of the challenges for leaders in the region is to be able to choose the future they want to see for the organisation. And maybe they have a different view from the centre of the organisation.

“So the challenge is for the leaders to have the ability to make choices and decisions on business direction and to convince the global leadership on what is most important and relevant locally because they are in the best position to make the decisions.”