#April2024 #Asia Pacific #Leadership #Team-Building

Asia Talent: Reaching the Top

It has long been recognised that working in a challenging environment helps build leadership skills. The difficult business environment in many Asian countries has helped hone the management capabilities of executives in Asia.

‘Ambition and agility are more pronounced among staff from countries with greater volatility and change, such as Malaysia, but less so in Singapore because of its compliance culture and sense of entitlement.’

MNCs increasingly value the experience and skills of their senior Asian executives.

‘One of the biggest strengths of Asian leaders is resilience and their ability to work creatively in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty.’

However, filling global positions with executives from Asia is easier said than done. Two factors have played against this development:

While the Asia talent pool is much larger than 20 years ago, the demand for that talent is even greater. Talent shortages persist across the region.

Executives close to headquarters (both physically and culturally) fill the global jobs of many MNCs and are often reluctant to cede global positions to executives who work far from headquarters.

Even when there is a recognition that more Asian executives are required in global jobs, the demands of the Asia business and resistance from headquarters can remain strong.

‘We have a long-term need for talent from Asia (especially China) at the top, so we are looking for globally mobile talent in Asia. But getting US and European leaders off the stage is hard.‘

The first step to a global role is often a posting within Asia.

‘We are reinstating our pre-Covid policy of rotating younger employees to different locations in APAC. While some employees are more reluctant to relocate than in the past, we still have talented “mavericks” who will be leaders in the future.’

… but not just anywhere in Asia.

‘Sending employees to Singapore from Australia is like moving people from Sydney to Melbourne. They will get a lot more out of working in Hong Kong, Malaysia or Thailand - places that are more complicated and perhaps not as comfortable as Singapore. If you’re successful in Singapore, there’s no guarantee that you will be successful somewhere else in Asia.’

A globally planned approach to career progression can reap rewards.

‘We advertise all key roles internally. This leads to a two-way street, with HQ people coming to Asia and Southeast Asia leaders going to HQ. The result is a great cross-country experience for the team. The Asia leadership act as career consultants to our team members. This helps retain team members and preserve the culture and customer knowledge.’

A global role is not necessarily the end goal of career progression; often, it is a prerequisite to leadership positions in Asia.

‘We develop high-potential leaders in Asia and then give them a global role – three years in Europe or the US. This provides them with the experience they need to play leading roles in Asia. This is where we’ll get the next Asia CEO.’

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