1st Executive Blog

05 May 10 Executive Search Requirements From Two Hemispheres

We thought it would be interesting to look at two different perspectives on key leadership traits that will be required in 2021. We think the findings will be instructive in both the executive search process and in the leadership development space.

We have used two specific points of reference. The first is from Spain where the struggle with the coronavirus pandemic has been extremely challenging. This northern hemisphere perspective is provided by the University of Navarra business School (IESE). The southern hemisphere perspective comes from the top five key capability needs identified among business leaders in Australia by Mindshop International in its 2021 Business Leader Insights Report. So, as well as different global perspectives we have both an academic and a “leadership in practice” perspective.

Overall, we expect that the executive search process is likely to draw insights from both sides which will be largely dependent on the nature of the leadership challenge, organisational culture and prevailing market conditions. We would be interested in your thoughts.

University of Navarra (IESE) - Spain   Mindshop International – Business Leader Survey - Australia

1. Empathy

“Empathy is crucial during times of crisis when so many people are struggling” says the University. The fundamental premise here is that the context of working arrangements, business models, innovation, relationships and communication have all changed and that both leaders and the people that they lead will have adapted at different paces. Being more fluent with the technology may not guarantee empathy and the empathic may not be so fluent with the technology.


1. Coaching Your Team

There is no doubt that this is related to the Spanish findings. Two years ago, most coaching was about motivation and managing behaviours to extract optimal performance. More and more, it will be about helping teams to live and work within their “new normal” while constantly reinventing it. With an increasing focus in swot analyses where Opportunities and Threats are being reviewed weekly because that’s how quickly they change while Strengths and Weaknesses change more slowly.

2. Flexibility

“Flexibility is a no brainer. Either you are flexible or you die. Because there is no way that we can navigate the situation we are living now without re-examining our own assumptions, our own way of doing things.” Mireia Las Heras. Here, the University talks about a willingness to do things differently and challenging the way that things were done successfully in the past.


2. Insights on best practice from peers

Australian business leaders are showing a much greater sense of collaborative learning based on practical experience. There is a sense that things are changing too quickly for the slow and deliberate implementation of new theories when more and more business leaders are happy to talk about their practical successes and failures with the things that they have tried to each other.

3. Learning Agility

IESE break this down into Mental Agility, People Agility, Results Agility, Change Agility, and Self-awareness. Each of these things lend themselves to sophisticated competency-based interview discussions in the executive search process. They also lend themselves to encouraging leaders to think more systemically about the environment in which they lead and the extent to which a much bigger strategic overview can help ensure success.


3. Implementation and Project Team Skills

It’s worth noting that business leaders who work with Mindshop International and its 500 independent advisers have been exposed to agile learning methods for a number of years. It is therefore no surprise that with this information in the stable, that they have identified implementation or execution and the rapid enhancement of project team skills as vital. The latter in itself is the embodiment of learning agility.

4. Data Driven Decision Making

“The key benefit of data-driven decision- making is that it removes and reduces the importance of, or the effect of, human biases, of human emotions, from the decision-making.” Sampsa Samila IESE. Here, University correctly points out that for the foreseeable future there will be years of intense decision making for managers. This is true, if for no other reason than the rapid change in opportunities and threats. Interestingly, while advocating data over human intuition or emotions to produce better decisions, the University also suggest sthat the use of data for forward looking decisions is particularly important.


4. Marketing and Growth Strategies

Clearly there is a link here with the University’s thinking. Marketing and growth strategies are forward-looking by nature. It does look as though business leaders in Australia have recognised that whatever they were doing in the past needs re-evaluating. There is a long established integrated marketing communications theory that talks about Time, Place and Opportunity. Business leaders are identifying that these elements are in a constant state of flux. “Pivot” may have been one of the most overused and misappropriated marketing terms of 2020 but there is no doubt that data is being analysed quickly as new product solutions and how to communicate them to customers in new circumstances has changed

5. Lean Budgeting

The University sees this as a level of flexibility that goes beyond the incorporation of new digital approaches or having more people work from home. They are advocating that businesses need to re-budget from a zero base and constantly use their financial data to adjust rolling budgets throughout the year. We are not sure if this translates to Lean Budgeting but it is certainly a change from a top-down, “add a little to last year” approach.


5. Profit and Efficiency Skills

Australian business leaders identified that this as more about successfully managing outcomes by becoming better at managing sales, margin and cost lines. Inherent in this approach is the requirement to question everything and to understand the real drivers of business success. It is likely to see an approach that analyses, for example, the value that suppliers can deliver rather than simply what their services cost. In many ways, this also feeds into best practice sales models such as The Challenger Sale.

As you can see, the overall universal approach identified by the University is already being channelled into practical management skills and anticipated outcomes by business leaders in Australia. Australia may have an opportunity to move ahead in some internationally competitive spaces as its businesses, during 2021, are already working in much more “normal” environments where they are relatively free of lockdown and other coronavirus induced restrictions.

It will be interesting to see how the executive search process during 2021 explores an understanding of both the practical approaches and the thinking behind them.

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