Leaders are being asked to perform and transform simultaneously—to meet business as usual targets today, while also ensuring the business remains relevant for tomorrow. And with accelerating pressure from disruptive tech-enabled competitors and shifting consumer behaviors, repositioning for the future has never felt more challenging.

In the Asia-Pacific, leaders intuitively understand the duality this requires. The ancient Taoist philosophy of yin-yang can be thought of as opposite forces that are complementary and interact to create a dynamic, harmonious system. Just like the perform-transform dichotomy, the whole then becomes greater than the sum of its parts, a natural order.

“There’s a need for hyper-innovation, for rapid iterative execution, as well as delivering short-term results,” explains Eugene Chang, a Korn Ferry Senior Client partner based in Singapore. “That requires a new type of leader.”

We call these new leaders Enterprise Leaders. They are rare—globally, just 14% of leaders are able to perform and transform simultaneously. And they create profound social and business value. Our research shows organizations with Enterprise Leaders grow 6.7% faster than their peers.

Here’s six levers you can pull to develop their traits, behaviors and mindsets within your organization.

1 Make courage your mantra

As a Singaporean, Chang says he was taught to strive for perfection from a young age. “If you get 99% in a test, your mum will ask why you didn’t get 100%,” he says. “At work, if you’re afraid to fall short of expectations, you’ll set safe targets. And that holds us back from innovation. We need to accept some ideas will fail. In accepting these risks, we’re then in a position to make break-through discoveries.”

Courage is also a core mindset for leaders. Enterprise Leaders are willing to identify and address problems and opportunities, even if it’s a challenging or unpopular view. They take responsibility for making decisive calls, and they can’t wait to launch a perfectly crafted solution.

“It takes a lot of courage to test something that’s not fully thought through, but that’s the only way to get feedback fast and learn,” says Chang.

2 Allocate more time to transform

During leadership development activities, Chang asks leaders to write down what percentage of time they spend on perform versus transform activities.

“There’s no perfect combination. But when I ask them what they think it should be, every single one will say they’re too low in the transform arena,” he says. “And that’s because their KPIs are focusing them on today’s performance. It’s how they’re rewarded and measured in Asia.”

Every business model now has an expiration date, putting more pressure on the need to evolve.

“To keep performing, you have to transform. You can’t rely on exploiting the old business model anymore. You need to create the next one, to disrupt yourself before others do,” explains Chang.

He describes it as a “leapfrog momentum between perform and transform” where some bold bets will pay off to create a new business that will in turn deliver future performance.

“One way to do this is to split your teams,” he suggests. “Focus one team on perform: milking your current ‘cash cow’ business to fund new business ideas. Give another team space and resources to transform and build a new business. Over time, that new business will become the core model.”

3 Mobilize the power of many

Enterprise Leaders need to create a broader ecosystem beyond their business and bring everyone on board to amplify impact. That can be difficult for those used to a more authoritative structure, as it means being prepared to give away power.

“We collaborate quite naturally in the Asia-Pacific region, but as we come from hierarchical societies, we could be more inclusive across generations or teams,” says Chang.

“In this new world, it is ideas—not experience—that have become the new currency. Leaders do not have a franchise on great ideas, and they can learn a lot and gain from younger employees if they’re prepared to listen,” says Chang.

Flattening the power structures means everyone can be an innovator. And by aligning everyone around a clear purpose, Enterprise Leaders are more effective at building horizontal and vertical networks of influence and collaboration.

Leadership Development

Leaders who can tap into the power of all

4 Nurture tomorrow’s leaders with care

Leadership development teams will need to get very clear on success profiles for future leaders, so they can create more effective training, coaching and support programs.

Chang says the key for leadership development is to focus on potential, not performance— and to avoid the risk of high potential program burnout.

“In Asia, I see many leaders who are already exhausted just achieving daily tasks. They’re already working at 120%, and a stretch assignment to prove they are leadership material will demotivate,” he cautions.

Rather than expecting potential leaders to run a marathon from day one, start building their muscles slowly over time. “For example, start with some coaching to develop strategic thinking, and as they level up, add another layer of competency. Move them into different parts of the business, so they feel a steady progression. Not every moment needs to be a stretch assignment.”

5 Build agility across the business

Potential Enterprise Leaders tend to be those with high learning agility.

“They may not be the smartest in the room, but they’re the fastest learners and they know how to work with other smart people to achieve a common goal,” says Chang. “These traits already come naturally to high agility individuals, so you can challenge them sooner to help accelerate their growth.”

However, those who have lower learning agility will need more focused development to help bridge that gap. They might be very skilled in technical competencies, but they will also need to be able to adapt to change. Building that foundation might take a little longer, but to succeed, Enterprise Leaders need to be comfortable operating in ambiguity and making real-time corrections.

6 Model the mindset

It is what leaders do, not what they say, that builds a strong organizational culture. So it’s not enough to say you ‘empower innovation.’ You will need to demonstrate innovative behaviors every day, to show the team what is expected and allow people to fail fast, fail small—and learn quickly.

“Many teams have lacked the permission or structures to support creative thinking. They’re used to taking instruction, and it will take reinforcement for them to feel safe to make suggestions,” says Chang.

Ultimately, each of these levers will only work if leaders have aligned everyone with a clear vision and purpose in a more decentralized future. This purpose needs to define impact that holds real value, not just financial metrics, to energize the organization to perform and transform ahead of the competition.

In doing so, you can harness the energy of the yin and the yang—today’s results, and transformation for tomorrow—and build the resilience and agility needed to realize that vision.

Learn more about the six secrets of change leaders who are driving results today.