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Navigating disruption: What are the crucial leadership traits for APAC leaders?

Navigating disruption: What are the crucial leadership traits for APAC leaders?

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Executives in China showed the greatest preference (76%) for risk tolerance as a leadership value, while ASEAN respondents expected collaboration, trust-building and open ways of working.

Amidst a challenging macroeconomic environment and technological headwinds, what leadership approaches and traits do business executives consider crucial to weathering the disruption while maintaining a focus on growth and resilience?

Having surveyed 375 business leaders across ASEAN (focusing on Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore), Australia, Greater China (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India and North Asia (Japan and South Korea), the latest report developed by Economist Impact and commissioned by Red Hat revealed strategies deployed by companies in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region to de-risk their business include:

  • Creating forecasts for business performance under adverse and optimistic scenarios (54%),
  • Refocusing their supply chain strategy (46%), and
  • Cutting operational costs (45%).

Meanwhile, the role of business leaders has also been brought into sharp focus amidst the ongoing complexities and headwinds.

When asked to rate the importance of specific leadership traits to navigate the current economic and technological disruption, surveyed business leaders prioritised collaboration, trust-building and open ways of working with employees and stakeholders as highly important (82%), followed by agility in thinking and decision-making (89%), and humility (81%). This implies self-awareness of limitations and willingness to work with the people who possess the necessary know-how.

Here are some key findings across different regions.


Greater China (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan)

Executives in China showed the greatest preference (76%) for risk tolerance as a leadership value amidst ongoing economic and technological headwinds. Their contemporaries in Hong Kong (92%) and Taiwan (96%) appeared to give higher priority to agility in thinking and decision-making, however, believing this trait will be very or extremely important in helping their businesses weather the current disruption.

In an uncertain environment, most respondents in China (92%) and Hong Kong (84%) regarded defining and periodically reviewing their organisations’ vision and strategic priorities as critical, while more respondents in Taiwan (84%) valued a robust understanding within the leadership of how emerging technologies can benefit their companies.

economist impact and red hat report jan 2024 greater china


ASEAN (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore)

Most respondents in the three markets expected collaboration, trust-building and open ways of working – both with employees and external stakeholders – to be highly important in overcoming ongoing macroeconomic and technological challenges.

Collaboration emerged as a clear winner in Indonesia, where 92% regarded it as very or extremely important.

Agility in thinking and decision-making also emerged as a valuable leadership trait, but particularly in Malaysia, where all respondents selected this as very or extremely important.

According to most respondents in ASEAN, defining and periodically reviewing the company’s vision and strategic priorities is “very or extremely effective” (Malaysia, 96%; Indonesia and Singapore, 92%); and communicating the vision and priorities is as important (Malaysia, 100%; Singapore, 92%; and Indonesia, 80%).

Despite the growing popularity of flat organisational structures, however, relatively lower shares of executives in Singapore and Malaysia (68% and 72%, respectively) have found flat leadership to be highly effective.

economist impact and red hat report jan 2024 asean


India

The emphasis on human resources is similarly reflected in the leadership traits business executives in India value, particularly in times of crisis. Most respondents (97%) named collaboration, including trust-building and open ways of working, as particularly helpful when negotiating economic and technological headwinds.

Other priority behaviours among business leaders in the country are agility in thinking and decision-making (92%) and an innovative mindset (88%).

To foster innovation in their organisations, most business executives in India find that defining and periodically reviewing their vision and strategic priorities is most effective. Many corporate leaders also rely on clearly communicating the same vision and strategic priorities, while others find that defining innovation KPIs and tracking them produces results.

economist impact and red hat report jan 2024 india


North Asia (Japan and South Korea)

Leaders in Japan are partial to collaboration, trust-building and open ways of working, with 92% saying these leadership traits will help their companies in navigating disruption.

Most (87%) of their counterparts in South Korea, however, are prioritising risk tolerance as a means to overcome ongoing and future challenges.

As companies in these two markets seek to grow their business in the face of headwinds, business leaders find common ground in their approach to pursuing innovation. Almost all business leaders in Japan (95%) and South Korea (95%) favoured defining and periodically reviewing their companies’ vision and strategic priorities.

At the same time, eight of ten executives in both countries are of the view that a strong understanding of how emerging technologies can benefit their companies is highly effective in inducing innovation.

economist impact and red hat report jan 2024 north asia


The report also revealed the emerging technology landscape in APAC:

  • Japan showed the highest level of integration of cloud computing technology with 87% of Japanese executives confirming they have fully adopted, and 64% of executives citing its role in helping safeguard jobs in their companies by making them competitive as the key reason for adoption.
  • APAC recorded high levels of adoption of data science capabilities in the region, specifically in South Korea (73%) and India (71%).
  • In Singapore, 70% of business leaders who said their organisations have not adopted generative AI attributed this to the lack of skilled talent needed to integrate it in their business, underscoring the need for companies to upskill their labour force to keep pace with innovation.
  • In China, 40% of business leaders said their organisations are in the early stages of adopting AI and automation-based technologies as they have seen maximised productivity because of adoption.

Respondents of 'Anatomy of adaptive leaders: Navigating emerging technologies' included a mix of executives in both technical roles, such as chief technology officers and chief information officers as well as non-technical roles, such as chief executive officers and chief operations officers. The survey insights were also supplemented by an interview programme with business leaders from financial services, telecom, e-commerce and utility companies.


Lead photo / 123RF
All infographics / Anatomy of adaptive leaders in APAC: Navigating emerging technologies in economic uncertainty report

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