State of Leadership Development in Organisations

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Demand for Leadership in Asia

According to International Monetary Fund, the regional economic outlook for Asia and the Pacific estimates growth for the region to remain strong at 5.4% in 2018, as the region continues to be the leader of global growth. At the same time, the operating environment in Asian market remains fast paced, uncertain and hypercompetitive resulting in a need for companies to overperform in order to thrive and sustain. This pushes up the demand for a large pool of high performing leaders.

This need for leadership is recognised as the essential ingredient for success by senior executives in the CEB’s survey of CEOs in Asia in 2013. Hence, leadership performance and retention should be one of the top priorities for businesses.

Supply for Leadership in Asia

Despite the high demand for leaders in the region, Asia is facing a current shortage of qualified leaders because most leadership teams in Asia consist of relatively young and inexperienced leaders in their organisations. This is cited in the aforementioned CEB survey, in which the following were mentioned:

  • The average age of leaders in Asia is 38 years, as opposed to 43 years elsewhere
  • Leaders in Asia have 6 fewer years of work experience than executives with comparable responsibilities in other countries
  • Since leaders in Asia also switch employers more frequently, they are relatively less familiar with their organisation, and in some cases, even their industry
  • In many cases, employers are unaware of leaders’ decision to leave and a lack of succession plans to keep the team and project going. A lot of hardworking executives work extra days to liaise with stakeholders in different parts of the world in order to reach or exceed targets. Extended workdays can eventually lead to burnout or decision to leave the organisation for another company that offers less stress or greater benefits
  • Due to the fast career progress, many new leaders in Asia lack the basic knowledge and skills required to manage the transition from operational to leadership responsibilities

Current Situation of Leadership Development

According to the Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report from Deloitte, leadership is viewed as the highest priority of all the issues asked, with 86% rating it “urgent” or “important.” However, the current situation of leadership development is reported as such:

  • Only 13% of companies in the survey rated themselves “excellent” in providing leadership programs at all levels—new leaders, next-generation leaders, and senior leaders
  • 66% indicated that they are “weak” in their ability to develop Millennial leaders, while only 5% rated themselves as “excellent”
  • 51% have little confidence in their ability to maintain clear, consistent succession programs
  • Only 8% was confident that they have “excellent” programs to build global skills and experiences
  • Only a quarter of employees in Asia felt that their leaders are fully prepared for future challenges.


Competent leaders are in high demand especially in the Asian market. However, Asia also faces a shortage of experienced, committed and qualified leaders as compared to other regions, as reported in CEB’s survey of CEOs in Asia.

One way for organisations to address this talent shortage is to implement effective leadership programmes to close the gap in the leaders’ skills. However, the statistics from the executives in Deloitte’s 2014 global survey showed that current programmes have not been effective and useful in building leaders for the future.

Therefore, it may be timely for companies to take a step back to review its state of management development and start to take a more proactive approach in strategising leadership and mentorship at all levels. They can do so by setting up structured, comprehensive management development frameworks and programmes to prepare their leaders for future challenges and potentially, improve business results.


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