Bring on the brilliance: Mindset is the new must-have for leaders

Community workplace innovation mindsetMindset, rather than skill-set, is the necessary focus of leadership today. As technology-driven change gathers pace, some companies are taking advantage of the wave of disruption, while others are overwhelmed and heading for extinction. It is predicted that 40% of current Fortune 500 companies will cease to exist within the next 10 years. To assess what it takes to stay ahead, I interviewed 70 leaders of top global companies for Asia-Pacific with combined revenues exceeding $1tn (£760m), mostly regional CEOs but a few CEOs of Western multinational companies based in Asia. The idea was to find out how they are being disrupted, what they’re doing differently to ensure future success and how leaders can stay effective in a world where the pace of change is unprecedented.

Cut in half

Many of the CEOs said that ‘at least half’ of their senior management teams were totally unsuited to the current business environment. While they had the skills and experience, these senior executives were inclined to stick with known strategies rather than seeking to innovate and lead their businesses through disruption.

It’s not possible for every large company to replace half of its management team –half the world’s management workforce would suddenly become redundant. Finding good talent is already hard and halving this pool would be disastrous.

But managers need to do more than simply adapt to digital transformation – they need to pivot the disruption itself and take it further.

First steps, long game It seems people fall into three groups: welcoming change and progress; not welcoming change, but willing to come along; resistant to change.

So you might think the answer is to coach and retrain the second group and eject the third. But unfortunately there’s no way of knowing who fits into which group until their effectiveness is tested – and that doesn’t show up in any interview or CV.

The task is much more demanding; we have to predict the mindset of a person from subtle clues and through assessment tools. As a result, the relevance and precision of assessment tools is growing as companies begin to look at mindset above skill set, both to look at existing employees and to assess new hires.

Leaders who welcome change, and those who react, are experimenting with new business models and setting sail into uncharted waters.

Moving the dial

Smart and highly successful people can be humble. In fact, our interviews suggest that success is increasingly reliant on humility – and other qualities of the desired new mindset, like agility and authenticity. Acknowledging you are not perfect is the first step.

Beyond this, we found that many multinational companies are looking to bring in external expertise to help them move the leadership dial. As one CEO said: “As a company, we work as a leadership team with external coaches, to work out what is important as leaders. We cannot direct any more; we have to inspire.”

While this requires a new mindset from the CEO and leadership team, inspiring and delivering change through the organisation requires an even bigger cultural shift. Getting management and workforces to embrace change quickly is a real issue.

Mark Braithwaite is the Asia-Pacific managing director of global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson and author of Leadership Disrupted

Back to listing