In Europe, leadership for a new era

The EU is in for a host of changes requiring a new skill set for leaders, a Korn Ferry study finds. Which skills will matter most?




Thanks to Brexit, we all know the European Union isn’t going to look the same in the coming years. And neither will its leaders.

A new Korn Ferry report finds that corporate government affairs representatives in Europe are adapting to a new landscape in the wake of all the political and economic change there. According to the study, that needs to include a revamping of how those representatives handle the interests of their organizations and sectors—both at the EU level and in member capitals.

“Historically, organizations have had widely divergent views on the role and the importance of the government affairs function,” said Penny Sadler, senior client partner, Life Sciences, at Korn Ferry. “Given the new environment, organizations in Europe would be well served to invest more attention and resources into the government affairs function to make sure they do everything they can to protect against adverse developments.”

Complex negotiations are underway in government centers involving many parties over how Europe will innovate, grow, and compete in the years ahead. While the United Kingdom’s relationship to the EU dominates headlines due to the voter-approved Brexit in Britain, enterprises in the region must also confront myriad other key issues, including regulation, taxation, data protection, and climate change.

The good news is there will likely be a robust market for European government affairs specialists as organizations seek to monitor and influence the region’s legislative and regulatory initiatives. Given that movement of European affairs executives between industries is fairly common, there will be many opportunities for ambitious European government affairs executives to gain new experiences and move forward in their careers.

“With so much change in the offing, organizations will be placing a greater value on candidates who display learning agility and situational adaptability,” said Sigrid Marz, senior client partner, Technology and Public Affairs EMEA, at Korn Ferry. “Experience is valued. However, people will need to adapt to the potential for rapid change and to the differences between various sectors and member capitals.”

The firm’s research indicated that government affairs executives feel they possess competencies required to perform effectively today, but do not necessarily possess the skills and capacities that will be important in the future. Moreover, the research suggests government affairs executives may lack important senior leadership competencies—a shortcoming that could hamper their aspirations for higher positions that include board exposure.

“What’s interesting is that the qualities that government affairs executives value and are important to perform their jobs well are not the qualities that are viewed as most desirable by top corporate leaders,” said Dana Sullivan, principal, Global Government Affairs, at Korn Ferry. “Government affairs executives who aspire to higher levels of corporate responsibility should look to develop qualities that are important at the C-suite level, including managing complexity, nimble learning, and driving results.”

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