Leadership Issues – A Global Perspective

Malcolm Duncan, Director in our Sydney office, is just concluding a two year term as President of IRC Global Executive Search Partners. This is the global alliance of more than 40 retained executive search firms represented in some 75 locations worldwide and of which The Insight Group is a member. 

This role has afforded Malcolm a unique opportunity to observe global trends in the executive search industry.  We thought it would be interesting to get his thoughts on a range of topics based on this experience. 

How do you see global leadership competencies changing in the digital age? 

“For one thing, leaders need to be able to create environments where people can collaborate across multiple platforms, from face to face collaboration to online collaboration. Technical skills and even good management abilities are no longer enough; leaders need to be able to exhibit emotional intelligence so they remain aware of the impact their behavior is having on their team – and that team may be spread across the globe.  A leader needs to find ways such as Skype or video conferencing to build engagement and relationships that are just as effective as if they were managing a team in the same office.”

One hot topic is Australia is the lack of female leaders.  Do you think positive discrimination works and what is best practice globally in the area of diversity? 

“I have strong views that you only bring about equal opportunity through a mix of legislation and education. Countries like the US that have legislated for workplace inclusion see a greater number of women leaders. Countries in the Nordic region have strong inclusive policies and consequently a good balance in gender leadership. 

The leaders in diversity consistently remain the Nordic countries and a number of the Commonwealth countries like Canada and New Zealand have developed some interesting initiatives.  The USA is extremely strong on workplace inclusion, particularly encouraging promotion of minorities and providing leadership positions for women.” 

What are some of your observations in terms of remuneration as you travel between countries? 

“The US remains consistently at the top of CEO remuneration tables – this is driven principally by a willingness to use options and other rewards to motivate medium and long term performance, coupled with a favourable tax rate. 

Germany and Switzerland are the leaders in the EMEA and certainly the German economy is growing strongly in Europe, impacting on remuneration levels.  Asia is the emerging power house – obviously markets like China and Japan pay well – regions like Hong Kong and countries like Singapore still enjoy favorable tax regimes. Basically, capital is global and talent is global and talent will follow the money.  For example, a lot of US CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are expats and that is true around the world.”

Finally, if you were speaking with a younger executive, what advice would you give them to assist in building an international career? 

“My advice is always the same – get a strong education (post graduate level) and do a great job in your current role. If you look after the present, the future will look after itself. As far as trying to pick an industry – it doesn’t matter if you work in agriculture or digital animation – just aim to be the best you can and you will have value at a global level. If you are focusing on the next step or spend all your time learning Mandarin so you can work in China, you miss the point.” 

Rohan Carr
September 2014

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