Leadership thinking

While a recent survey of New Zealand CEOs identified a “return to territorialism” as the greatest threat to growth for their organisation, it also found they are less confident about their organisations delivering digital transformation. 

The 2018 KPMG New Zealand CEO Outlook Survey Report found that the volatile geopolitical climate is impacting business confidence among some of Zealand’s leading CEOs. Some 68 percent of New Zealand CEOs surveyed identified a “return to territorialism” as the greatest threat to growth for their organisation. This sentiment was mirrored by offshore CEOs, in the KPMG Global Survey, albeit to a lesser degree. 

The New Zealand survey also showed a slight softening of confidence compared to 12 months ago.  

KPMG New Zealand’s chief executive Godfrey Boyce says in a media release that the country’s reliance on export-led growth perhaps underpins the slightly more cautious outlook. However he doesn’t see the results as a cause for alarm. 

The past year has seen global vagaries continuing to play out in response to Brexit and the US Government’s protectionist trade direction. At the same time, New Zealand has faced policy changes associated with bedding in a new Government, which inevitably brings a level of uncertainty. 

“This is a catalyst for CEOs to refocus on what’s needed to thrive – building organisational resilience, embracing digital transformation and developing and maintaining a truly customer-centric ethos are all key themes that showed as top of mind for our leading CEOs,” he said. 

The 2018 KPMG New Zealand CEO Outlook Survey is run in conjunction with a KPMG Global survey of 1,300 CEOs across 52 countries. Locally, 50 CEOs from some of New Zealand’s largest companies were surveyed.    

The survey also shows that compared to their global cohort, and their own responses from a year ago, New Zealand leaders have less confidence in their organisations to deliver digital transformation. In the 2017 New Zealand CEO Outlook Survey, 88 percent of CEOs surveyed were confident they were disrupting their sector rather than waiting to be disrupted. In 2018 that dropped to 28 percent. 

The report notes that a little more than half of New Zealand CEOs (58 percent) surveyed are “personally prepared to lead their organisation through a radical transformation of its operating model to maintain competitiveness” compared to a global metric of 71 percent.  

And only 26 percent are “confident that existing leadership is fully equipped to oversee the transformation” compared to a global response of 44 percent. 

The report says that the data suggests that New Zealand CEOs understand the challenge, with nearly all (98 percent) positively viewing digital transformation as an opportunity rather than a threat. However the majority (64 percent) acknowledge that their organisation is struggling to keep pace with technology innovation (global response 36 percent). 


 The challenges 

So what are the other challenges some of those involved in training and coaching New Zealand leaders see ahead for their clients? 

Iwona Hosking, the general manager, New Zealand, for Liquid Learning, says the greatest challenges facing leaders today is being authentic leaders. 

“People are our differentiating factor, and in this highly competitive business world the focus of leadership has shifted to people and not only the bottom line.  

“Although this seems like blue territory to some, extensive research acquired from leaders during the developmental stage of our events such as The Women in Leadership and Women in Sales Summits, tells us that our current leadership challenges are based predominantly around soft skills which are critical to understanding our increasing responsibility for impact that lasts – an impact all leaders want to create.” 

Other EQ leadership conversations and challenges that are finding their way to Liquid Learning’s platform are: 

• Creating and not curating, as much as we like to share each others’ stories, leaders need to start creating their own.  
• Innovation around your personal leadership brand – be you, everyone else is taken. 
• Being visible through authentic confidence and collaboration and not by autocratic management. 
• Fear of the unknown – we need to embrace confidence based on our experience, be fearless in creating the change we want to see in the world.  

 She says these are all soft skill challenges as opposed to the hard skill challenges of the past.  

Hosking says too that leaders need to prioritise more than just the bottom line – their vision as leaders should be based on authentic values, and the priority should be to empower others. 

Liquid Learning is a leadership learning development company based in Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific. “In a digital age we provide the human contact; we connect people, we conquer challenges, share insights and create solutions that will shape tomorrow,” she says.   

Human Synergistic leadership consultant, Neil McGregor, says the challenge for leaders today is that they had to “get into” change. Change is about staying relevant. “You may not like change, but we can guarantee you’ll like irrelevancy even less.” 

He says leaders also need to challenge their business model. You may be comfortable with it but you need to ensure your value proposition is delivering to your customer. “Scan the horizon and keep challenging the business model.” 

His third point was around communication. Decision-makers need to get out of the office and listen to people and focus on the listening.  

Human Synergistics work is around helping an organisation perform to its potential by building a culture that creates the environment for high performance to happen. 

McGregor says leaders need to understand how to build an environment for high performing teams, what makes the team aligned and committed and allows the team to learn as a team. Leaders need to rely on them and essentially get out of their way. 

He adds that change in itself is immense and people do really struggle with it. One of Human Synergistics most sought after programmes is around leading change, not change management, but leading people through change. 

As more businesses struggle with staying relevant Human Synergistics’ 14th Annual Conference on Leadership and Culture in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in September will look at these challenges in the workplace. 

The conference format, will see the speakers’ TED-style talks followed by a workshop led by the Human Synergistics team, so attendees can apply the thinking to real world outcomes. Speakers include Olympic gold medallist Rob Waddell, the University of Canterbury’s Alex Hanlon and Mercury’s general manager of digital services Kevin Angland. 


Rising above the short-term churn 

In a fast-paced complex world, organisations need leaders to rise above the short-term churn and be focused on long term success, according to TLC NZ, which is based in the New Zealand Centre for Educational Research and is the New Zealand distributor for The Leadership Circle. 

It says that leaders who promote collaboration and ongoing learning, “who act with courage and integrity, who can see where their organisation sits in a wider system, and who can build strategies with a clear purpose and vision get better results than leaders who don’t”.  

TLC works with leadership coaches, consultants, and heads of HR/organisational development who use The Leadership Circle profiles with their clients as part of their ongoing development work. It oversees training in New Zealand so that they can start using the profiles with their clients and provides ongoing support for leadership consultants to help them deliver the best results for the people they work with. 

The company explains that the TLC Profile is a leadership assessment. “Leaders rate themselves and collect ratings from their colleagues to create a profile with scores in 29 dimensions related to leadership.”  The profile scores are based on a growing global database of thousands of leaders from organisations in all sectors and of all sizes. “Leaders can see exactly how they compare to other leaders and this helps drive them on their development into a world-class leader.“ 

Sue Hornblow is a TLC Facilitator and leads The Leadership Circle certification training in New Zealand, including an upcoming certification in November. She has been working as a leadership coach for more than a decade and has been using the Leadership Circle in her practice since 2011. 

TCL NZ says what separates The Leadership Circle profile is its breadth. “Built on a unifying framework that includes well-researched leadership and development theory, the profile covers both beliefs and actions. These are divided into two areas – creative and reactive. Creative dimensions are correlated to higher leadership effectiveness and measure how a leader achieves results through a strategic focus, integrity, concern for long term sustainability and through growing the people they lead.  

“Reactive leadership is more limiting and is seen as too pleasing, too passive, too safe, or as too arrogant, too demanding, too controlling. Often it comes from beliefs and habits that served a leader well earlier in their career but are now undermining their leadership.  

“Leaders are often surprised when they understand the real cost of these behaviours. TLC is a way to enable leaders to quickly understand their impact on others, themselves, their results and the areas to focus on to make the biggest impact. When these patterns are more visible to us, we are able to be more deliberate and conscious of a wider range set of responses that are available to us.”  

Hamish Small, who is the head of faculty for the Southern Institute of Technology’s School of Business says the main priority leaders need to be addressing today is adapting to change, delegating to, and developing, staff, motivating and being a role model.  

He says the challenges also include the need to be more IT literate and adaptable “and be able to utilise technology appropriately for efficient productivity, or or surround themselves with personnel they trust who can advise accordingly.” 

Small says too that change management and working within a global economy is always a challenge as is coping with what can often be 24/7 pressure.  

“Interpersonal skills can’t necessarily be easily taught, but strategies to enhance personal attributes can assist in any transition, as these skills are imperative in a competitive world.” 

SIT has been offering business, management and commerce at certificate to postgraduate level programmes for more than 20 years.  As to what students find gives them the best outcomes from the programmes, Small says it is actual applied management.  

“The majority of assessments are based on real-world trends or scenarios or dynamics. Students are prepared for real-world practice and are encouraged to critically assess their current workplace if already working.”   M 

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