LEADERSHIP : CEOs struggle to cope

Business is getting just too complex and challenging: you might have thought it but now you know you’re not alone.
Less than half of CEOs worldwide believe their enterprises are adequately prepared to handle highly volatile, increasingly complex business environment, according to major new survey.
But the figure is even worse among New Zealand and Australian CEOs.
The IBM 2010 Global CEO Study uncovers for the first time starkly divergent concerns and priorities among Australia and New Zealand compared to CEOs in Asia, Europe or North America.
An astounding number of Australasian CEOs told the study they feel ill-equipped to cope with this drastically different world. Eighty-four percent of the Australian and New Zealand CEOs interviewed said they expect the level of complexity to grow significantly over the next five years, but only 39 percent believe they know how to deal with it successfully.
This is the first time such clear regional variations have appeared in this biennial survey of private and public sector leaders, says local leader of the study, Ross Pearce, organisation and people practice leader of IBM New Zealand. This year, IBM surveyed more than 1500 CEOs from 60 countries, including 22 from New Zealand.
The ‘complexity gap’, brought by the explosion of data and volatility of global economies, poses more serious challenges than any other factor measured in the eight years IBM has been conducting this research, says Pearce, and is larger here than in any other part of the world.
He believes it demonstrates how our economy and society is becoming increasingly more closely linked with developing and global markets, as well as the impact of regulation and technology on organisations. “This is creating world of complexity for organisations and presents both significant challenges and opportunities.”
Tony Carter, managing director of Foodstuffs Auckland, who participated in the study, says there is no doubt that business has become more complex over the past few years which has dramatically increased the challenges that CEOs face.
Based on face-to-face interviews conducted by IBM business consultants, the 2010 IBM CEO Study reveals that globally CEOs believe that navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity, which emerged as the top leadership competency.
However New Zealand and Australian CEOs differ and place integrity before creativity as the key leadership competency, which comes as no surprise to Carter. “In my experience values are the glue that hold organisations together and acting with integrity is one of the key attributes of good leader.”
The survey shows 53 percent of Australasian CEOs use iterative strategic planning processes as distinct from formal annual strategy reviews, and only 25 percent favour quick decisions – compared with global average of 33 percent. Australasian leaders are also willing to embrace new management and communication techniques.
Australasian CEOs are especially determined to put customers – or citizens, in the case of public sector leaders – front and centre. “Getting connected” to better understand, predict and give customers what they really want is the top priority for 91 percent.

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