A regional perspective

17 September 2020

AIMS Partners and Consultants around the globe work with business leaders in a myriad of different industries and company sizes on a daily basis.  When it comes to successful leaders, we know that there is a list of competencies that might be relevant to most, however, the successful combination has a lot to do with matching the right competencies to the correct environment. Or does it?

This week, Bernardo Entschev from AIMS US and Jonathan Khoo from AIMS  Singapore share their experiences in their respective regions.

Bernardo has been working in the US market for 5 years and feels that most of the leadership traits/characteristics are universal,  with a couple of specific skills that are very important in the North American market.

  1. Communication: A leader needs to be able to communicate clearly and be able to explain things in a way that everyone understands. A very important part of the communication process is active listening in order to create an “open door” and “easy communication flow” environment.
  2. Integrity; This is not just about honesty or being frank but the way in which you defend your values and how you make ethical decisions. This is important for employees as well as the maintenance of a company’s positive image.
  3. Problem-solving; A great leader needs to project calm behavior, serenity and think about possible solutions while facing obstacles. The positive involvement of internal and external teams in the search for a solution is very important.
  4. Decisiveness; The US market is huge and fast so often leaders need to make quick decisions with the information they have. Often there is no time to raise all detailed information before a decision. This effective decision-making ability normally comes with wisdom and experience.
  5. Dependability; Being a leader that keeps promises, follows through and is dependable encourages trust and engagement from your team.  This behavior makes the teams resilient and engaged.

Asia is the world’s largest continent, with 48 countries in this region and home to the world’s second and third-largest economies (China and Japan, respectively). While Asians occupy the same continent, there are distinct characteristics of each country’s culture and history that sets them apart from all others. There have been numerous studies done to describe what makes an Asian leader successful. Jonathan shares his views based on personal experience with successful Asian leaders (in Asia)….

  1. Empathy & Humility; Asian leaders understand that empathy and humility are crucial to be successful in this region. Roots of these two traits stem from cultural upbringing, religious beliefs and leaders’ experience. Unlike their western counterparts, where being assertive is a strength, and not being so, a display of lack of confidence… the Asian leader generally chooses to adopt a higher level of humility, open-mindedness and is more patient in listening. Their emotional quotient is dominant and often in a collective decision-making process, Asians will have a human point of view in their decisions. With these traits, the Asian leader instils a strong sense of loyalty with their employees – both at corporate and personal level.
  1. Commitment & Work Ethics; Hard work is an age-old Asian value. Once you explain what needs to be done, the Asian executive will go without sleep for days to make it happen with perfection. Asian leaders have strong work ethics and can generally work longer hours – that is how people here are brought up – to work hard – for the country, company or family. Where Asians leaders may lack in creativity and showmanship, compared to their Western counterparts, they compensate with sheer hard work and determination. It is common to see the Asian leader first in the office and last to leave. And yes, the Asian leader brings work back home and over holidays.
  1. Relationships; Asian leaders seem to value this more than their Western counterparts. In many countries within Asia, having personal trust and a strong relationship with someone can involve moral obligations and exchanging favours. Sometimes this can be perceived in Western business as unethical behaviour associated with corruption, it is a core (but often unspoken) part of doing business in most countries in Asia. Successful Asian leaders understand that trust comes before the contract. While it is slower to build relationships, once trust has been established … often things move faster and for a longer-term.

About the Authors:

Jonathan Khoo is the Executive Vice President for AIMS International in APAC and Managing Partner Singapore 

Bernardo Entschev is the President of AIMS International and Managing Partner US

Final Edit by Leonie Pentz, VP Sustainability and Managing Partner South Africa and the AIMS Marketing team