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The Global Asian Leader: From Asia, For the World

Hosted by: Center for Creative Leadership

ChapmanCG, in partnership with The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), were delighted to host two Virtual People & Culture Labs on a compelling topic that is top of mind for HR and business leaders today – Global Asian Leader: From Asia, for the World. For maximum impact and personalisation we hosted two separate sessions- one exclusively for our Southeast Asia network of senior HR Leaders, and another one exclusively for our network in the wider APAC region. Below we have chosen to summarise the findings from both events.

We were joined by several prominent HR thought leaders from the industry and CCL:

  • Arindam Mukherjee Founder & CEO at Talent Intellect
  • Andre Young Head of Human Resources Asia Pacific and Greater China Operations at Essilor Luxottica 
  • Allan Ang Regional Head of Talent and Leadership at Yum! Brands
  • Mukta Arya Managing Director, Chief Human Resources Officer (Asia-Pacific) at Societe Generale
  • Diana Khaitova Regional Sales Director at Center for Creative Leadership
  • Sunil Puri Senior Director and Head of Asia Research at Center for Creative Leadership

Background On the Report

The Global Asian Leader: From Asia, For the World (GAL 2.0) research is an extension of the Global Asian Leader: From Local Star to Global CXO study that The Center for Creative Leadership published in 2018. The revisit of the Global Asian Leader research aims to investigate how organisations with regional aspirations continue to pursue their global Asian leader development agenda despite constantly shifting contexts. 

Based on 75 global and regional leader interviews across 50 organisations in diverse industries, this updated research study highlights decisions leaders and organisations must take and dilemmas they must navigate in addition to evaluating the impact of the pandemic and other megatrends on the development of global-ready Asian leaders.

At these two well-attended events we discussed the key success factors to make this happen and the essential ingredients needed to develop robust global Asian leaders.

Must-Have Traits for Asian Leaders

The research identified five must-have traits that Asian leaders must demonstrate: 

  • Courage to find comfort in discomfort and take on unfamiliar challenges, for example the ability to speak up, share ideas, push back and hold their ground. 
  • Curiosity to experience new situations and experiment with new skills.
  • Trust to build relationships across cultures.
  • Influence to affect decisions via compelling communication and people skills.
  • Strategic thinking to see the long-term, global implications of decisions.

This is in line with what global organisations are looking for when they hire leaders in South East Asia. The courage to push back, challenge the status quo, make recommendations confidently and hold ground when needed. Thinking out of the box, the ability to build networks, the ability to influence in highly complex multi-national organisations, and the ability to see the long term and strategise accordingly. At ChapmanCG we are seeing these desired qualities in the candidate specs for most of our searches.

Preparing Asian Talent For Global Roles 

As developing strong, capable and forward-looking leaders is critical to keep business going in times of crisis, HR has a big role to play in elevating Asian leaders and accelerating their growth trajectory.  

According to the report, HR leaders should consider the following actions:

  • Invest in efforts to investigate the root cause and ‘real’ explanation for the lack of a global Asian leadership pipeline
  • Identify key attributes and capabilities required by leaders to success in regional and global roles and establish feasible career development pathways
  • Design programs that provides appropriate experiences for potential executives to develop their global leadership development skills
  • Engineer the right career progression to help these leaders seize global opportunities 
  • Focus on understanding the Asian business environment and culture and then tailor the leadership development programs accordingly. 
  • Avoid ‘exporting’ leadership development programs to Asia wholesale 
  • Get buy-in on driving leadership development initiatives across multiple levels in the organisation so that more leaders can benefit and not just the top-level executive team. This is because leadership skills are required much earlier on for young leaders to successfully navigate a more turbulent and less predictable business environment.  

Key Take Aways

At ChapmanCG we are sometimes met with the misconception that Asian leaders are harder to develop to assume senior global leadership roles due to the lack of leadership potential, relevant experience, international exposure, and soft skills. This is consistent with CCL research findings. 

External factors, especially the important family dynamics play a big part in Southeast Asia. Top senior talent in the region is often reluctant to move as they are expected to look after their elderly parents at home. The jump that a leader may need to make from a cultural standpoint is quite huge, often impossible without a supporting boss and an enabling organisational culture. 

Another interesting point from the research relates to the nationality and background of the hiring manager or recruitment stake holder. If they themselves are an expat, they often have less bias against overseas talent and are more open to sponsoring the international career of their teams.

Finally, it’s clear also in the Asian talent market that basing the roles where the talent is, by offering remote or flexible working, is a fundamental key to success. The companies who are utilising technology and systems effectively are winning the war for talent here. 

Thank you to CCL and our panellists for a very insightful session. We are looking forward to hosting more exclusive sessions for our network of HR Leaders across APAC and the rest of the world. If you would like to get more insights from inspiring HR Leaders in our global network, you can find out about our upcoming events here.


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