What is the objective of shifting focus of the business to leadership consulting? What triggered the shift?
If you look at the world three years ago and think of web 2.0 technologies such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, what used to give us a firm, distinct advantage was having a proprietary database of people where we knew their background, compensation...we knew everything about them and nobody else did. That component has been taken away from us. That made us rethink on how we can add value to clients. We also looked at other facets. Forty per cent of senior executives don’t last 18 months in a job. They are smart and intelligent, but culturally, they do not fit in the organisation. We interviewed our investors, clients and candidates on the value addition they wanted. We then focused our strategy on not only on talent acquisition , but also succession planning, development, assessment and retention. Organisations were looking for ways to develop talent internally for long-term success.
Which sectors are doing well in terms of acquisition of senior executives in India?
Five key sectors are doing well: consumer goods, financial services, industrial, technology and leadership consulting. Life sciences has all of a sudden started to come back. That’s because a lot of global pharma companies are looking for markets to invest wherever there is an opportunity. Biotech is looking up.
How is the business looking globally?
Our business continues to grow in India and we believe it will continue to next year. We look at the Asia Pacific region and India and China, in particular, as the catalyst and driving force of our businesses. Our biggest areas of growth have been Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China and India in this region. India is roughly 3.5-4% of total revenues. I am bullish on Asia, content with America and somewhat anxious about Europe next year, given Greece, Italy, Spain. It is going to be a challenging year. Leaders will have to grapple with issues like, how to stay competitive when you have other regions growing. We just announced restructuring in Europe two weeks ago. We closed a number of offices and are using that as an opportunity to grow in other economies of Europe and Asia Pacific. Germany, France, Switzerland and UK and Belgium are doing well.
Given these challenges, have leadership requirements changed?
You cannot be a dictatorial leader today. You have to manage from the centre and not from the front. When you do this, you try to get people engaged and motivated. Being dictatorial is not going to work because people will leave. But if you teach and influence them, it is much more powerful.
Are business leaders equipped to do this?
Look at the business schools today and what they teach. You spend 90% of your time on finance, operations, strategy, corporate finance and the remaining 10% interacting and dealing with team. You get into a senior leadership role and spend 10% of your time on finance, operations, strategy and 90% on your people and team. So, it is a complete shift in how you lead and run companies today... it is about finding the right people.
What traits do these leaders need to have?
There was a great quote I heard from an Indian CEO who said at an event: “Great news for everybody. The war for talent is over. Talent won.” That’s true. At the senior level there is a supply-demand issue. Earlier, you wanted somebody with great IQ (intelligence quotient), then you wanted somebody with great EQ (emotional quotient) as a business leader. Now we are saying what’s in short supply is CQ (cultural quotient).
The Indians in demand across the globe are those who have done well here, worked in different businesses in other markets and bring the cultural difference to the organisation. They are in short supply across the globe.
What are the big challenges facing organisations in the future?
Leadership from the perspective of Generation Y. You have a generation that is born between 1978 and 2005 – Generation Y. This generation will have 14 jobs by the time they are 38 years of age. How can you drive a strategy if you have a turnover of this generation every two years? What does it take to lead and manage them? That’s one of the biggest challenges for leaders.