4 Steps to Effective Leadership in Emerging Markets

If we are taught to learn from case studies of past successes, is it any surprise that leaders look into the rear-view mirror to find their future leaders? This approach may have worked before but has become the modern-day Maginot line of leadership. This condition is especially severe within the emerging world where I operate.
For most of the twentieth century, leaders led through variations of command and control. That hierarchical, inward-focused style began to unravel at the end of the century. Still appropriate in certain situations, but in an increasingly complex-adaptive reality it is increasingly being displaced. There is now talk of ‘leaderless’ organisation, leading by objective but what leadership style will eventually emerge in this still young century? To understand future leadership requirements, I, as a scholar practitioner, have resorted to become engaged in critical reflexive practices to draw from my own experience and from those leaders I know and from what is written not only in popular business articles but also those acquired through the long hazardous journey of critical action research (CAR).
Through the above mentioned practices I am confident that there are at least five fundamental business changes that create a need for new leadership skills:
• Intensified global and local competition
• Faster rate of information and innovation
• Greater uncertainty and ambiguity
• Greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility
• Greater need for virtual teams that transcend an organization’s boundaries
These shifts are well known, but their ramifications for leadership are not well understood. Leaders need to be prepared for the future rather than stuck in the past.
Certain attributes of leadership are no doubt timeless. Integrity, courage, judgment, intelligence, vision, and ambition all still matter but will be insufficient in the future. Four additional skills or qualities are needed now.
As a first step, leaders need to be able to navigate through this kaleidoscopic environment. They need to convey purpose and direction but also be willing to make midcourse corrections. They need analytical skills, as always, but also the ability to discern and translate signals and make decisions on the basis of both experience and imperfect information about the future.
Second, leaders need to empathize with people, understand perspectives different from their own, and build rapport and confidence from those they lead. Leaders need to be able to provide tangible added value not only to the way works are coordinated, facilitated and enabled by the employees but also to the sense of organisation sense optimism and purpose.
Third, leaders need to be willing to self-correct. This skill has less to do with fine-tuning strategy than with revisiting their personal and long-held assumptions about business leadership and success. Leaders need to question the status quo, be willing to reexamine the environment, and correct outdated modes of leadership. It is tricky to balance this questioning stance with the confidence that leaders need to convey.
Finally, leaders need to win and win. Their success will increasingly depend on those around them rather than coming at their expense.

Posted in Articles, Reflexive Mode, Rudolf's Articles.