Additional skills needed to lead an emerging market business
THE qualities necessary to run a major business are well known. Leadership competencies are described in countless articles and business school texts but it is becoming increasingly apparent that the component parts of business leadership in an emerging market are somewhat different.
This is according to Auguste Gusti Coetzer and Michelle Moss, directors of Signium Africa previously Talent Africa, a South Africabased executive search and talent management company servicing subSaharan Africa.
Differences are highlighted in any search for top talent on behalf of a multinational or a major incountry organisation seeking big emerging market growth, say Coetzer and Moss.
"The need for special talents in special circumstances has long been appreciated, though the corporate lifecycle generally provides the context."
'At startup stage, the emphasis may fall on entrepreneurial flair, drive, personal charisma and perhaps the ability to bend some rules — and get away with it'
At a mature business, the board may prefer industry experience, a proven track record and the ability to get the most out of people, deliver efficiencies and optimise the current asset base, the two Signium Africa directors say "Lifecycle considerations make it possible to some extent, at least to follow a proven formula when establishing an appropriate leadership profile. "However, after many years of identifying, pursuing and placing emerging market business leaders, it is clear that no readymade formulas apply in this challenging arena." Coetzer and Moss point out that the initial base of competencies is similar across all markets, however.The core requirements are:
- Commercial acumen and financial/accounting savvy
- Hardcore technical knowledge and skills.
- Systems and digital knowledge.
- Diligence and hard work over long hours.
- Meeting deadlines and driving results.
- Brutal honesty.
- Exceptional motivation being a selfstarter.
"Such attributes are a great start, but won't take you the whole nine yards in an emerging market," they add. "Here, leaders face additional business headaches. "These markets are prone to financial crises; intellectual property rights are insecure; bureaucratic delay is endemic; infrastructure, products and services are unreliable; local talent is sparse; assessing customer creditworthiness is tough; and distribution channels can be messy.
'What's more, corruption may be widespread, while performing due diligence and background checks can be difficult'
Coetzer and Moss say that an additional overlay of leadership skills is required:
- An ability to deal with ambiguity "Poverty eradication may be a priority for local elites that nevertheless entrench poverty through corruption." Transformational vision. "A business becomes an agent of socio-economic change, requiring a leader to commit to human and community development."
- Entrepreneurship and innovation. "Transformational solutions demand new ideas with profit potential, for example, transactional banking by cell phone."
- External awareness. "Businesses address 'nonbusiness' issues, for example, by supporting education in maths, science and IT."
- Versatility "Bosses multitask in skillstarved markets."
Many commentators spotlight differences between the Eurocentric business model focused on profit maximisation and the Afrocentric equivalent focused on care for human relationships, employees and communities, they add.
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