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Three steps to adaptive leadership in the age of technology

Today organizations are finding themselves intricately woven into the fabric of technological advancements and are compelled to adopt new technologies to remain competitive. From using IoT technology in manufacturing and facility management to small retail or food and beverage businesses relying on contactless payment solutions, technology is shaping how enterprises operate and compete. In Hong Kong, for instance, the adoption of emerging technologies is pronounced, with cloud computing leading the charge—64% of companies report full adoption, and another 36% are in the early stages. Moreover, 88% of executives from these companies cite staying competitive as the primary driver for adopting these technologies. Even with these advances, there remains a significant potential for wider uptake and enhanced integration of these technologies into core business strategies.

According to the Anatomy of Adaptive Leaders report developed by Economist Impact, Hong Kong companies are also making strides in other areas, with 68% of firms showing strong progress in modern applications development. Additionally, 60% of Hong Kong companies are advancing in adopting open source principles and technologies, and in establishing digital sovereignty. These companies also demonstrate a commitment to data science capabilities, with 64% reporting substantial progress. This indicates a trend towards a holistic approach to technology integration, which is central to driving innovation and maintaining competitiveness.

While we see more and more organizations investing in technology and generative AI, most enterprises are rushing into it without having established how beneficial these investments can truly be to their organizations—simply to avoid the risk of being left behind.

Characterized by unparalleled economic growth and cultural diversity, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region presents a tapestry of opportunities. But, it also comes with a diverse range of risks. The report developed by Economist Impact indicated that business leaders surveyed shared that shortages in skilled labor (77%), supply chain disruptions (76%), cybersecurity attacks (69%), and increasingly fragmented regulations (69%) are some of the top challenges faced in the region. Talent shortages are particularly acute in countries like Japan (87%), Australia (84%), and South Korea (81%) and in sectors like wholesale, natural resources, and services. Business leaders in APAC are expected to navigate a multi-faceted landscape that requires a refined understanding of the risk factors at play.

Whether you are the boss of a small business or at the helm of a large multinational corporation, the ability to adapt and thrive is critical to running a successful business and remaining competitive in an ever-evolving marketplace.

Digital transformation is more than just digital transformation

Everyone has been talking about digital transformation, but it isn’t just about digitalization or automation. It is about using these methodologies to transform business processes, culture, and customer experiences. To achieve this, business leaders need to agree to and support cultivating a digital-ready organization.

Leaders must remain open-minded about novel technologies and be willing to try them. This includes emerging or newer technologies like cloud computing, Web3, quantum computing, and generative AI. While business leaders cannot acquire expertise in every technological innovation or product, those who can successfully leverage emerging technologies will improve the efficiency of company resources used and reduce costs incurred. Non-tech-savvy executives can continue to drive innovation in their organizations with one important trait—being adaptive.

Here are three steps to being an adaptive leader:

#1 - Encourage a digital-ready culture

Fostering an adaptive leadership style in the age of technology first begins with cultivating a digital-ready culture within the organization. This goes beyond introducing cutting-edge technology and digital tools, but instilling both confidence and proficiency among employees to use these tools. When it comes to introducing new processes and practices like digital integration, leaders play a pivotal role in ensuring seamless change to daily operations. It is empirical for leaders to lead by example, such as actively learning about new technologies and how these can benefit the organization. By promoting a culture of being adaptive and embracing technological advancements, leaders empower their teams to stay ahead of the curve, enhancing overall organizational agility.

#2 - Assess what needs modernizing based on business objectives

The next step involves evaluating the enterprise’s IT infrastructure and identifying what requires modernization. Compared to mere technological updates, this involves a strategic alignment between IT infrastructure and business objectives. Adaptive leaders have to work closely with IT departments to leverage their expertise to deploy the most suitable platforms and technologies, in order to tap into these resources to address the evolving needs of the business. By doing so, leaders fortify the organization’s technological foundation, positioning it for sustained success in the rapidly changing business landscape.

#3 - Collaborate and adopt an open style of work

Embracing an adaptive leadership style also includes adopting an open style of work. This is characterized by agility and collaboration. By adopting an agile mindset, leaders can encourage teams to respond swiftly to the varying market conditions.

Collaboration between teams is also key. For example, the IT department may usually be perceived to work in silos from other functions of the business, but these talents bring a niche set of skills and expertise to the table that can help improve current work processes and alleviate pain points. For example, reducing time spent on repetitive tasks via automating workflows and upgrading traditional infrastructure to accommodate rapid changes in industries like banking. It is critical to foster collaboration across the organization to cultivate an open and inclusive work culture. By allowing ideas to be shared freely, leaders will be able to steer the organization towards greater innovation.

The answer to navigating business complexities in APAC

APAC is a culturally diverse region where many of the countries are experiencing different economic headwinds. As reported by Economist Impact, Australia is experiencing a period of an economic lull that is aggravated by an aging workforce; while Taiwan’s reliance on exports is compromising its near-term prospects for economic recovery amid slow global demand. Hong Kong's progress in technology adoption shows the benefits of embracing digital trends and processes to enhance competitiveness and operational efficiency.

Although most would like to invest in innovation and new technologies to navigate the challenging environment, enterprises are faced with the need to be frugal. APAC companies have found increased competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency in adopting technologies like cloud computing and generative AI. To enhance organizational resilience, leveraging open source technology has been imperative to becoming future-ready. Singaporean companies have made robust progress in embracing technology-driven new ways of working, as 72% of these companies have advanced in adopting open source principles and technologies—the highest adoption rate in the region.

It takes a forward-thinking and adaptive leader to recognize the importance of these technologies. In Hong Kong, the integration of emerging technologies and the development of modern applications and data science capabilities reflect a commitment to maintaining a competitive edge in a dynamic global market. Open source sets the foundation for many of these emerging technologies, increasing the competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency of enterprises with these solutions. Adaptive leaders are those who, despite the complexities and constraints, leverage these tools for innovation and growth, guiding their businesses through the unique challenges and opportunities of the APAC region.

Marjet Andriesse, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Red Hat APJC