Bring on the brilliance : The making of great ideas

Mark BraithwaiteGetting management teams and workforces to embrace change fast enough to stay ahead of accelerating disruption and change is a global problem. The pace of change is outstripping our ability to adapt, and everyone struggles with mindset, because nothing is certain except constant technological disruption and adaptation.

The impact this is having on leaders tasked with steering established companies is huge. To understand this more clearly, I spent more than 100 hours in discussion with 70 leaders across the Asia Pacific region, discussed in greater detail in Leadership Disrupted, published earlier this year by Odgers Berndtson.

These CEOs, all fully engaged, high achievers, lead companies with combined global revenues of more than $1trn across multiple sectors. This success, of individuals and organisations, is the result of achievements in the past. Now, they all face a highly uncertain future, driven by the accelerating pace of disruption resulting from technological innovation.

Our most important finding is that in facing this challenge, the number one factor for achieving future success is the mindset of leaders. The key to managing change is no longer skills but mindset, which is the main prerequisite for effective leaders today.

Hiring for mindset

Mindset is very different from skillset, which can essentially be measured from a CV, summarising experiences a candidate has had.

“People from other industries can be more open to learning new ways of doing things than incumbent experts”

However, measuring mindset is something that we are not equipped as humans to assess in others, and requires a more scientific approach. There are many psychometric tests available that can measure the right things; at our company we have developed our own Leaderfit model for this. The challenge for the hiring manager is to define what the tests are looking for, and make sure they assess correctly for this. 

It helps to align internal thinking if the hiring manager uses a common model and language across all of the stakeholders in the hire, testing candidates in this same language. But even so, the concept of hiring for mindset adds interesting dimensions.

An individual may struggle to unlearn things when expert in a subject, but learn quickly in a new field. Thus people from other industries can be more open to learning new ways of doing things than incumbent experts, who may be locked into what they already know.

Neuroscience has a lot to say about this phenomenon – most importantly, that people only adapt well in a crisis. The challenge for companies is that they need people to change before reaching crisis point.

Embedding new mindset

Helping CEOs to bring in new senior leaders with the right mindset to stay ahead of change goes beyond simply assessing for mindset. Firms and HR directors must also ensure new-style leaders are helped to succeed and don’t fall prey to old sharks – subconsciously or otherwise radiating “we don’t do it that way here”.

Support from the very top is critical if an organisation is to have any hope of shifting the mindset of its senior leadership teams. If new individuals, hired for their new and more open mindset, fail to transition effectively, they will make little impact on the collective.

Hiring for mindset happens because a company is in the midst of change and is looking for catalyst people to help accelerate that change. In a highly competitive global market for leadership talent, where finding new hires with the right mindset is critical, the CEO and HR director must hold open the door to lead change.

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

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