With the rise of automation, disruptive technology, and changing business landscape, leaders of today must have the ability to acquire different skills sets.
Developing talent does not only require an enormous amount of time and resources, but it is also rather an arduous feat to undertake. Nevertheless, if careful and structured planning is undertaken, organizations could successfully grow and groom their own timber, feels Intan Zalila Mohd Yusof, Senior Vice President of Yayasan Khazanah, a Malaysia-based foundation established by Khazanah Nasional Berhad – the investment holding arm of the Government of Malaysia.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Yusof interesting insights on leadership traits of future leaders, and why leaders have to develop a wide array of skills to thrive in the competitive business environment today.
What are the top leadership traits that organizations including government bodies look for today to thrive in the competitive business environment?
In the fast-changing and competitive environment, organizations including government must always have the needs to invest in and understand two pivotal areas. They need to understand what types of people who are successful in their respective environment and select those who possess the right skills. Second, they need to identify ways to continually develop the individuals and leaders within their system who may not presently possess that skill set and build upon them so that they would eventually ready to take on the roles in the future.
Based on my almost 20 years of working experience, what I have learned over time is that although there are differences from that of organizations, industries, sectors, some common leadership traits, and qualities emerge as to be essential, effective ones such as i) ability to lead and influence others; ii) driven by greater reasons for doing things; iii) ability to communicate, execute and deliver and iv) ability to adapt, innovate and think strategically ahead.
How can organizations groom successors in the executive ranks, ensuring a smooth transition that maintains the value of the business?
Developing talent does not only require enormous amount of time and resources, it is definitely quite an arduous feat to undertake. Nevertheless, if careful and structured planning is undertaken, organizations could successfully grow and groom their own timber. For any important initiative or exercise to identify talents and developing them to become the potential leaders for the organization, a well-curated plan with definitive strategy is a must. Organization must have a clear business goal which would later translate into providing a clearer direction for succession planning. The framework for an effective succession planning would always include among others, defining the essential competencies, identifying of talents within the organization and providing appropriate interventions to help those identified talents to develop themselves.
It’s no longer sufficient to be skilled in only one area of the business today. Leaders have to develop a wide array of skills. What according to you will drive the future leadership rules?
As we live in a time of rapid change, organizations and businesses need to embrace a new value system that depicts the emerging trends of future leaders. With the rise of automation, disruptive technology, changing of the business landscape, leaders of today must have the ability to acquire different skills sets. Gone are the days where leaders need to deliver only the set KPIs, but what is more important now is that leaders must transition themselves into thinking and strategizing beyond what is present and more. They need to understand and integrate the emerging environment by navigating the business through complementing both working with people as well as with technology. They must be akin to changes and correspond to them through a greater understanding of such transformation.
What’s Yayasan’s approach to identify young talent and nurture them for taking up important responsibilities in future, as part of your nation-building initiative?
At Yayasan Khazanah, we are very clear of our goals and mission. We are not into the business of providing financial aid solely for their studies but we are offering more than that – we are providing a comprehensive leadership development programme with the aim to select, groom and nurture talents for the nation. What we have currently is very structured – from the point of selection to that of development until the placement. We undertook a Strategic Review exercise a few years ago where we developed a Leadership Model with defined 8 competencies. This Leadership Model offers competencies which are universal and generic. The model has three key aspects which are related and intertwined in supporting the fundamentals of developing leaders: i) Purpose ii) Personal Traits and iii) Traits in Leading. These competencies are now used across all spheres of talent selection and development and are integral in ensuring that the talent we cultivate would eventually become an effective and contributing member to the society, workforce, and nation, at large.
How do your leadership and character development programmes align with the changing needs of today’s organizations?
Our scholar leadership development programmes are designed with the specific end in mind. The curriculum and content are mapped against our core leadership competencies and they are built to equip the scholars with appropriate readiness to meet the needs of today’s organizations. To ensure a highly experiential learning curriculum that has a high likelihood of having an enduring impact on the participants, 5 foundations form the basis of curriculum design: i) blended learning; ii) reflective learning; iii) developing experience density; iv) fostering deliberate practice and v) personal responsibility. As the content is reflective of the universal and generic leadership competencies, we feel the programme is adequate to prepare them for today’s workforce. Understanding the fast-changing environment that affects new needs and requirements, we also embed in the content an element of Professional Experience Learning where the talents are immersed in the corporate/professional environment and are given the platform and opportunity to learn through observations & hands-on experience.
What are some of the top leadership building challenges you face and how do you overcome them as you prepare your students for tomorrow?
These days where competition gets so intense and challenges come in myriad forms and degrees. The need for leaders to stay abreast and afloat and to maintain a healthy level of sanity and professionalism is essential. The fast-changing business environment also contributes to this tribulation as well. Hence, in order to prepare them for such ordeal, there are two aspects that we give utmost importance in when preparing them for tomorrow’s challenges which are i) high integrity and moral compass and ii) tenacity – two of the eight leadership competencies in our model. As the business environment requires a high level of adaptability to keep up with the demand, the need to innovate is crucial. Having resilience and tenacity is vital so is the need to lead with conscience with a drive to do the greatest good. That has been our mantra when we develop and nurture our scholars. A small start of getting them to be a better person would create a pathway for them to become a greater individual/leader in the years to come.