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New world calls for new generation of leaders

Published on Saturday, 07 Mar 2015
Catherine Zhu

What does the lunar new year hold? In business, one thing that is certain is that we can expect more uncertainty and faster change.

This message came home to me in a recent trip around China to meet clients across industries – from state-owned enterprises, to consumer goods companies, to internet players.

All stressed the same theme: technology is disrupting the business world, creating greater expectations from customers and unprecedented competition.  This shift was prompting them to rethink their organisations – and their approach to recruiting talent. 

They no longer hire people simply to populate static organisation structures and execute corporate strategies. Today, strategy is updated constantly, and local operations need the flexibility to respond quickly to market opportunities. 

This new world calls for a new generation of leaders. To find them, companies are deploying some non-traditional approaches. Candidates’ success in previous roles and in more stable times is no guarantee they have the curiosity, insight and determination to navigate a more fluid environment.

 Recruiters are asking some searching questions. To gauge a candidate’s curiosity, they ask: What do you read? Who do you talk to? What have you done to build networks beyond your industry?

To assess insight, they ask: What has been your most difficult experience or most significant failure? Companies are looking for leaders who can “fail fast”, learn from the experience, and move on. Companies ask candidates to look back at a past challenge and explain what they would do differently. 

If you want to advance your career this year, you might ask yourself these questions today. How you answer them could be decisive to your future. 

Catherine Zhu is managing partner of Egon Zehnder, Hong Kong

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