Leadership shifts from west to east

Written by
Changeboard Team

23 Aug 2010

23 Aug 2010 • by Changeboard Team

A shift in leadership from West to East

It didnt take a recession to highlight that there was a significant change in how leadership would emerge around the world and from where. The World Economic Forum earlier this year highlighted this change in bold neon, across many media releases and the message saturated the columns and commentary of national newspapers around the world.

This is no surprise, and the writing has been on the wall for years. You have the booming economies of India and China moving at a pace that is unmatched around the world. New industries are crying out for new talents in areas that were not foreseen when the current workforce was at school.

The Chinese economy is set to expand to a size greater than all EU countries combined and in India, there is significant investment in skill development and 50% of the population is emerging talent under the age of 25. At a time when growth in India is moving at an exponential rate, the UK is facing its harshest cuts and stagnated growth in decades.

Challenges for future leaders

This isnt a temporary thing, its a new age. Over the past two years I have explored this with 500 leaders in India from the private, public and not-for-profit sector. I have been asking them what theyre looking at, what works and what doesnt, and what the Challenges will be for future leaders.

For those who have earned their stripes, they point to difficulties in building effective collaboration across various sectors. They say they need better and more diverse global networks, and there is a concern for how engaged leaders are in their local communities, and how disengaged communities are in the countries future growth.

They also point to a style of leadership development in previous generations that was broader. And those leaders are broader in their aptitude to lead as a result. They are well-rounded. Emerging leaders have been educated and developed professionally with their greatest strength lying in their specialist knowledge. In functional structures and if you measure potential that way they are incredibly good at what they do. But without any development in broader leadership, that is all theyll ever be.

Emerging talent & growing pains

Business in the Community has looked closely at emerging talent and skills and highlights that the United Kingdom spends less on management training than any other EU country. In fact, their positioning statements on talent and skills point out that one-third of UK businesses dont invest in training at all. Yet, prior to the recession there was a scramble for talent. Individuals with a shred of potential were snapped up and remunerated handsomely in the process.
What are these bright young talents doing now? Well, I cant account for all them, but I can share what 70 of emerging leaders in the UK, and 70 of their counterparts in India, have discussed over the course of four months.
Irrespective of their specialisms, this future generation of leaders do feel that the mantle has passed to them. They know they will need a more global and far more responsible leadership perspective than their predecessors. They feel the time for change is now. However, for both the West and the East, there are going to be some growing pains that go along with this change.

What is fascinating is that emerging talents in the UK and India are a world apart in some respect, and share so much in common in others.

Risk taking in India vs UK

Over the past four months, 70 young go-getters on the rise in India have been exploring the contrasts and common ground they share with the same number of emerging leaders in the UK as part of our International Navigator course.
For a start, emerging leaders in India are not afraid of risk they embrace it. They view risk as their lifeblood and a necessary dynamic to get things done and achieve Results.
By contrast, emerging leaders in the UK say that they seek insulation from risk. They prefer to avoid it, particularly during a time of recession, and while they understand it will be necessary to take risks in order to drive innovation, they feel those risks should be calculated.
The same group exchanged views on approaches to innovation and enterprise in their respective countries. Many young leaders in India expressed excitement and a sense of ownership to make things happen, although, they rarely felt the upper ranks of larger and more traditional organisations were accessible to them. In the UK, emerging leaders say they feel paralysed and are waiting for things to happen but they are disenchanted with the established leaders of today.

Theres a place for passion

Passion is messy, particularly when youre climbing out of economic decline. There was a overwhelming sense of passion being inappropriate in some scenarios in the United Kingdom and a need for more of a consensual and collaborative leadership approach.
In India, emerging leaders openly spoke about their role in nationbuilding: the term alone shocking their UK peers, who found it refreshing to see the courage and passion with which their counterparts spoke of their role as leaders on an individual, economic and social basis.

Five shared points

The group of emerging leaders not only contrasted leadership in their respective countries, but explored where there was common ground and came up with five key Challenges that would face the future senior level executives and managers of the UK and India:

  • Leading teams to achieve more with less
  • Managing upwards
  • Leading older colleagues
  • Avoiding parochial attitudes
  • Broadening perspectives so as not to repeat the short-termism and mistakes of current leaders 

Both countries have a coalition government, and it was apparent that leadership styles embracing consensus building, collaboration, cross-sector and public-private partnerships, participative governance and community engagement were seen by both groups as crucial to future success.

The future has a moral compass

It was refreshing was to hear that the age of reverence for the Gordon Geckos out there is well and truly over (irrespective of the film having a renaissance and making us all feel our age). This group of emerging talent in the UK and India was keen to discuss corporate social responsibility and share best practice.
In general, it was perceived that an approach to ethical business practice was at an advanced stage in the UK, yet emerging leaders in India were keen to gain knowledge on how to embed this in their country and make it meaningful and effective.
Participants in both countries also identified that inclusive leadership is a high priority to bridge rural/urban divides, inter-generational leadership and lack of digital inclusion in both countries. They also shared a concern for sustainability, and the impact of climate change on future generations on account of previous generations disinterest on this issue.

Is the future bright?

The governments of India and the UK have made a commitment to investing in emerging leaders in both countries, and connecting them. I have to say, I am incredibly proud that Common Purpose will be designing and delivering the leadership development course that makes this happen.
There was absolute consensus from the 140 emerging leaders on our Common Purpose course in the UK and India that a key virtue of a good leader is someone who successfully nurtures talent in others.

For current leaders, the Challenge is to invest in our future leaders or those specialisms will stop being their strength and begin to stifle. They will become the boundaries to progress, joined up thinking and innovation. For emerging leaders, their future Challenge will always be finding, investing in and nurturing future talents. The geographic focus of leadership may have shifted, but there are some leadership Challenges that are simply universal.

UK-India Future Leaders Network

The UK-India Future Leaders Network was launched by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Bangalore, India, in July 2010. The initiative will be delivered by Common Purpose in partnership with the British Foreign Commonwealth Office. Common Purpose is an international leadership development organisation: www.commonpurpose.org