Many global organizations are looking to Asia as the center of future growth. The International Monetary Fund forecasts real GDP growth of 6.5% in India and 4.1% in China in 2025, and more than half the world’s consumers live in Asia. The region also has an outsized proportion of future talent, with 60% of the world’s youth.

According to Rupali Gupta, a Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner based in Singapore, this is an opportunity for global companies to leverage the innate (and sometimes undervalued) strengths of the region’s leaders.

Gupta is seeing growing numbers of global leadership roles recruit from within Asia, especially in sectors where the local consumer insights are critical to the business.

However, leadership development teams will also need to fill some vital capability gaps. One example is a mindset shift from executing orders to shaping strategy.

When Korn Ferry assessed what sets apart the world’s most successful business leaders—in APAC or any other region—we’ve found that they have most or all of the following traits.

1 Open to Experimentation

Agility and openness to change are critical qualities for future success, according to two-thirds of leaders in our CEO for the Future research. That includes having the mental capacity to effectively manage whatever comes next, which Gupta says is a hidden strength for many Asian leaders.

“Many of us have learned to make quick calls in unpredictable economies with many moving pieces,” she says.

However, being comfortable with potential failure doesn’t come so easily.

“The concept of ‘losing face’ means failure needs to be reframed as learning, and risk-taking as experimentation,” she notes. Similarly, asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Leaders can role model these behaviors by sharing their own journeys and what they’ve learned through setbacks.

2 Collaboration as Connector-in-Chief

Of the World’s Most Admired Company (WMAC) executives we surveyed recently, one third agreed collaboration will have the biggest impact on future business. That means harnessing your team’s collective power—which can be counter-intuitive when you’ve been raised to shine as an individual.

“When your part of a large competitive peer group, you need to stand out among a thousand or more students, candidates, or employees,” says Gupta. “And if you’re known for hitting your numbers, for analysis or high intellectual horsepower, building connections and networking may seem less important. But at a global HQ, navigating people and developing sponsors is a ticket to the table. Who is speaking for you when you’re not in the room?”

Globally, 57% of leaders believe leadership is a team sport. In Asia, business is a more reserved affair and building relationships might take longer. However, as Gupta observes, “No business exists in isolation today. They’re part of an ecosystem, and every organization we speak with is looking at partnerships to fill gaps.”

3 Foresight to Turn Insights into Action

Almost two-thirds of the CEOs we’ve assessed as successful Enterprise Leaders have a clear, well-articulated strategic vision. Gupta says strategic thinking may still need developing among leaders in Asia—but when it comes to action, they have the disciplined execution and perseverance to deliver results.

Organizations can leverage this mentality by setting up a clear process for strategic or innovative thinking. If people follow that framework and can explain their thinking, they will feel safe and keep learning from the results of their hypotheses. Many leading tech companies make transformation part of business-as-usual using this scientific approach.

Leadership Development

Leaders who can tap into the power of all

4 Integrity and Courage

Making bold decisions isn’t easy, and it requires courage to take a stand. Especially when 24/7 media coverage puts senior leadership decisions under scrutiny.

“Traditionally, many Asian cultures prioritize harmony over dissent,” observes Gupta. However, leaders in Asia are more likely to show humility than assertiveness, and they will take responsibility for decisions and the team. Without ego, leaders are more prepared to be held to account.

5 Ability to Inspire Change

Three-quarters of leaders told us having a genuine sense of mission and purpose is a vital trait. Sharing that vision, and getting others onboard, is just as important.

For APAC leaders who need to build trust across cultures and language groups, focus on influencing just 10% of people. Research studies show transformational change requires sustained effort—but if you can get a small group of the right people on board, they can influence others.

“This is the art of creating a ‘movement,’” explains Gupta. “Critical moments with small, consistent wins can build momentum across the organization.”

Gupta says mobility is also a vital part of leadership development. ““Future leaders need exposure to different functions, countries, and regions to build adaptability. They’ll learn how to communicate with, and inspire, diverse stakeholders—including a globally diverse C-suite, the Board and investors.”

6 Ability to Listen and Act with Empathy

Empathy starts with active listening, and it’s also important to act on what you hear.

Gupta says, “Asian leaders typically show openness and patience as listeners, and a strong EQ for how others are thinking and feeling.” This is a strength for future leaders, who will need to see their people as individuals, not resources, to help meet business objectives. Strong emotional self-awareness can also pay off in team performance and energy.

Global mindset, local understanding

This is an incredibly diverse region, and it’s not possible to “Paint a picture of APAC leaders with one brushstroke,” as Gupta cautions.

However, many leaders have natural strengths to draw on. And while some of the world’s largest organizations are closing down their in-house corporate universities, Gupta says she is seeing appetite to invest in leadership development in Asia, for Asia and the world.

Tenures here are typically lower than the rest of the world, so organizations are re-thinking their ROI of Leadership Development. They’re doing it differently, rotating talent inside and outside their organization,” she says.

That exposure to different cultures, markets and geographies can help to fill many of the leadership capability gaps. It can also help to break down traditional operational siloes and decision-making hierarchies. And that is what will enable an agile, change-ready organization of the future.

Are your next leaders global ready? Learn how leadership is evolving.