Effective leadership

David Tessmann-Keys, senior vice president, DDI International speaks to Gauri Rane about key organizational priorities to accelerate development.

David Tessmann-Keys, senior vice president, DDI International speaks to Gauri Rane about key organizational priorities to accelerate development.

What was the purpose of your recent visit?

India is a critical growth market and it is imperative to meet the key decision makers from various Indian organisations to understand their talent requirement necessary to execute their business strategies. This understanding helps us in our strategy for creating solutions we bring to the market.

What qualities should a capable leader have to face the challenges of tomorrow?

The leadership capabilities like knowledge, skills, personal attributes, competencies are always important, but an organisation requires its leaders to demonstrate a ‘depends on’ attitude. They should be directly informed by the ‘business drivers’ (the core priorities that articulate which business and cultural priorities will create competitive advantage) that are relevant to the specific organization. For example, an organization that requires high levels of innovation in order to succeed must possess leaders who are able to demonstrate high levels of entrepreneurialism, initiative and the ability to drive the innovation to execution. While an organisation focused on globalisation must look for individuals possessing the ability to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and adaptability. The better the fit achieved the greater the chance of the leader ready to face the challenges faced by the organization.
What should organisations do to accelerate development?

The ability to identify gaps between current workforce skills and anticipated future needs has been found to be the most important strategy for organisational success. Yet organisations indicate that they are capable of delivering only 67 per cent of the leaders which the business will require in the next three to five years. The shortages are more acute in mid-level and senior leadership ranks.

On an average it takes 29 months to develop a high potential mid-level manager into a ‘ready now’ senior leader. Hence organisations need to act now if they have to make up for the anticipated shortfall. Three key priorities to deliver ‘accelerated development’ are:

  • Identify high potential talent in a systematic fashion.
  • Make leadership development the business imperative.
  • Combine formal development programmes and on-the-job stretch assignments to accelerate leadership development.
  • Does leadership quality affect the bottom line? If yes, what can be done to tackle this?

    It is now an undisputed fact that there is direct correlation between quality of leadership and enhanced organisational performance. However, a high percentage of CEOs and Boards constantly report (via multiple surveys) that the ability to attract, retain and develop talent sits firmly in their top three priorities when it comes to ensuring sustained business performance. It is a generally accepted fact that the following sequence applies:

    Better the leader = more engaged and productive the employee = more satisfied the client/customer = higher spend = better organisation performance. It is just simple logic.

    Keeping in mind the importance of global exposure, what should organisations ensure while identifying their leaders?

    A global leadership profile looks like this: the individual should bring in a set of knowledge, skills, competencies and personality attributes that ensure that s/ he is wired in such a way to effectively operate on the global stage? Having undertaken research into these very characteristics we have learnt that not just any leader makes an effective global leader.

    What has been your experience with Indian corporate?

    We work with over 200 organizations in India including many MNCs and large conglomerates. We have not only contributed to strengthening their leadership but also have earned their trust as a true ‘talent partner.’ This is best evidenced by the length of our engagements. For example, to this day we provide leadership assessment and development services to our very first client in India—a relationship that spans over 8 years. During past years we have assisted our clients in staffing automotive plant start-ups, design and implementation of selection systems, leadership assessment and development from the front line right up to the very top of the organization.

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