CEOs will ‘disrupt’ themselves and their teams to lead for the future

Tim Nelson, the new Managing Director of Korn Ferry in Australasia discusses why building a company’s leadership pipeline is a task worth entrusting to the CEO.

Those who wish to gain insight into the role of a CEO could start by examining their diary. A 12-year study conducted by Harvard Business School called The Leader’s Calendar, did just that, by tracking how CEOs spend their time. Close to half the time CEOs spent with internal constituencies was with their direct reports, drawing the important and logical conclusion that building the company’s leadership pipeline is an important CEO function and should not be delegated. I would add that CEOs who build the leadership pipeline in their own organisations are also lifting the standard of leaders more widely, for the competition for talent is a strong driver of leader movement across organisations, industries and geographies.

The Harvard finding is amplified by recent research from Korn Ferry called The Self-Disruptive Leader which sought the opinion of investors and asset managers globally – including 50 in Australia - on the preparedness of our leaders for the future. Our study revealed that investors are interested in a new model of leadership. Australian investors say the need for transformation is going to make leadership more important to company performance within the next three years. They also consider current leadership styles to be in urgent need of change with 70 percent noting that short-term pressures inhibit leaders of the ability to push through innovation, digitisation and change.

The Self-Disruptive Leader research found that if companies are to avoid self-destructing, leaders need to embrace, rather than simply react to, the external disruptions they face. To beat disruption, they literally need to “disrupt” themselves—their thoughts, their values, their actions. Disruption of markets can only be met with disruption of leadership approach.

As the recently appointed Managing Director of Korn Ferry in Australasia, I know the commitment I make to developing my future leaders will be the most important work I do to improve our performance. The talent landscape is disrupting in real time and the leaders who got us to where we are, may not be the leaders who take us to where we need to be.

As much as it may seem logical to think so, it doesn’t always follow that great companies have great leaders. High performance can hide a multitude of sinstoxic cultures, questionable practices, employee disengagement, and more. With the only certainty seemingly being that business will only face greater uncertainty, Korn Ferry’s findings suggest a new, a very different leader is required.

Companies with leaders who aren’t future-ready are less able to adapt to the changing business environment. To navigate this difficult situation, many companies need to overhaul not only their leadership development programs, but the very structure and culture of their businesses. This organisational step change will enable them to equip their leaders-in-waiting with the opportunities they need to become a new generation of Self-Disruptive Leaders.

Korn Ferry understands this and has invested heavily in leadership and talent solutions that support our clients’ growth aspirations by providing support to develop leaders who are fit for the future.

I joined Korn Ferry in 1998 and have worked in executive roles across our three lines of business; Executive Search, Recruitment Process Outsourcing and, more recently, Advisory. My experience serving clients in these complementary businesses has taught me that to truly improve our talent pipeline and create the type of leaders who will help Asia Pacific prosper, CEOs need to be prepared to adapt, transform – and at times disrupt – their approach to recruiting and developing talent.