Present leaders must be future focused
Singapore – It is imperative that leaders have a futuristic foresight to steer their organisations, as the business environment continues to accelerate at the speed of light.
Pradeep Pant, president for Kraft Foods in Asia Pacific, said it is important for leaders to keep an eye on the future as it is the key to business survival. He added leaders cannot afford to slow down, especially as employees’ expectations and profiles are changing rapidly as well.
“When is the change going to stop? Never,” Pant said at the 2011 Singapore Human Capital Summit yesterday. “Bye-bye to the rest [of the leaders] who cannot keep up with accelerated change.”
According to Pant, futuristic leaders are flexible and adaptive to change. They will also be better suited to lead and develop their employees to achieve business objectives. “As jobs scale up and become more complex, not all people can cope with the new reality.”
Pant added, “A lot of people who were competent became incompetent to handle new jobs [roles].”
Professor Lynda Gratton of the London Business School added leaders who want to be future-centric have to focus on five key areas. They are leadership, organisational values, people practices, understanding their employees and their organisation’s structure.
However, global leaders do have certain challenges to overcome when planning for the future. Gratton said the inability to innovate openly, generational differences, lack of collaboration amongst employees and failure to use technologies can impede an organisation’s success.
In the course of her research, Gratton found that bosses are also struggling with learning to tolerate failure, gaining support of executive boards, loving their accomplishments, and creating more innovation opportunities.
Moreover, leaders in Asia face additional problems such as having to reduce carbon usage and promoting life-long learning among employees.
However with younger workers increasingly focused on having a sense of purpose to their job, Pant said organisations have to define what more they can offer besides the standard pay and benefits. He suggested that encouraging staff to partake in corporate social responsibility activities as a way of strengthening their core values.
Pant said it is also important to remove employees’ fear of senior management if the organisation wants to be futuristic. “You cannot rule the new working generation with fear as you could in the good old days,” Pant said, half in jest.
Pant recently found out that some of his younger team members were unhappy with the corporate culture at Kraft so he decided to tweak it by allowing employees to stop wearing ties to work. “The office is a lot more casual.”
It was a small change for Pant but he said that can go a long way in helping employees feel valued and understood.
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