A Look Inside The Future Of Global Leadership

Deloitte Consulting released a new report that teases apart trends in business. Here we take a look at what leaders need to innovate and succeed in a competitive global market.

A Look Inside The Future Of Global Leadership
[Image: Flickr user Kenneth Lu]

Just the way “selfies” and “digital detox” have become accepted parts of the current vernacular, certain buzzworthy terms should be getting a cease and desist order, soon. Case in point: “business as usual.”


Everything is changing so quickly, there is no such thing as usual, posits Eamonn Kelly, director, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Whether you’re at the helm of a company, or even commandeering a small team, it’s time to throw out the playbook and write a new set of rules.

According to the Business Trends 2014 report from Deloitte Consulting, the leaders most likely to succeed in this time of transition are turning the global landscape of enterprise on its head. The report found this new breed of leadership rising primarily from companies in emerging markets.

21st-Century Leadership Tool Kit

That’s because as new opportunities present, competition from businesses located elsewhere are becoming increasingly effective global players, says Kelly. Throw in the complexity of changing and often diverging policies and regulations and its a potent challenge for leaders.

Leaders in emerging markets display a pocketful of tools necessary to leverage near-constant change. Chief among them:

Agility: blurring the lines of traditional executive roles, adapting to marketplace changes and finding new customers, and being flexible enough to collaborate with others both within and outside their companies. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of emerging market companies anticipate working with other similar businesses.

Attention: the ability to keep an ear to the ground for the social and environmental impact of their business is 20 percentage points higher at emerging market companies.


Social Media Savvy: using social media to stay in step with customers. Sixty-six percent of emerging market companies say they use the technology for identifying customers’ needs.

The good news is that the report reveals that market leaders from both sides of the table (both established and emerging) are looking to learn from each other to master this multi-dimensional game. The critical component again is to stay nimble enough be innovative, which gives the business a competitive edge.

Innovation Beyond Borders

Lack of innovation is often mistaken for a paucity of new ideas. Instead, the report contends, “it is the lack of capabilities to engage far-flung and unusual sources of perspective on a regular and ongoing basis.” In other words, innovation requires not just out-of-the-box thinking, it needs beyond-the-company-walls ideas.

“Companies such as Kaggle, TopCoder, and Gigwalk all allow them to engage external talent to help research and solve problems at a fraction of what it would cost to employ full-time resources, and with many more options than would typically be suggested by expert advisors.”


Likewise from Apple and Android, to Quirky, businesses are opening themselves up to be platforms for development and discovery of new products that an internal staff wouldn’t have the time or resources to pull off at scale.

Or, they just go with the flow. Instead of holding fast to intellectual property, Dachangjiang, a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer took its design apart to assign several suppliers the responsibility for developing different parts. The payoff: producing more bikes rather than stressing about protecting intellectual property of parts.

All Together Now

Globalization by nature, is a fragmenting force. With leadership now trending to small teams instead of just one person, Kelly says a first step would be to ensure there is a clear and shared vision, and a compelling purpose. The value of walking the talk is well established, but Kelly says they have to go beyond traditional financial goals and commitment to shareholder returns. “They also require powerful, far broader, social, community and employee components.”

Easier said than done. But it can be done says Kelly. To spur innovation, he suggests using the “Ten types of Innovation” framework created by Larry Keeley or Chris Ertel and Lisa Solomon in their recent book Moments of Impact.

Other tools such as crowdsourcing both internally and externally, and rich data sets with improved means of interpretation will enhance the explanation of important decisions and organizational imperatives, says Kelly.

“And from the “softer” worlds of behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, we are gaining increasing understanding of how people absorb information and make decisions–which will increasingly inform how leaders engage with their internal and external constituencies.”


Social Media as an Internal Conductor

Kelly believes social isn’t just for keeping contact with customers. He says that as communication and leadership evolve from the broadcast of monologues to active engagement in dialogues, social media is a critical enabler. “They provide far richer, broader, and more immediate opportunities for multi-directional conversation and exchange of perceptions and insight,” he states.

It’s not without challenges, though. “Business leaders might have to get more comfortable with a sense of losing control, and focus instead on securing influence,” Kelly says, “It also places a premium on authenticity. Old-fashioned spin becomes more visible–and less acceptable–in a much more transparent world.”

Gender’s Role in Global Leadership

According to Deloitte’s report, “Leaning In” is taking precedence over opting-out. “Urbanization, education, and increased prosperity all play an important role here,” he notes. Though it’s not happening as quickly as some would like, Kelly says the long-term trend appears “clear, positive, and irreversible.”

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.