Thoughts on the Changing Face of Leadership in a Fast-Paced Globalised World: Exclusive Interview with Bill Pasmore

February 5, 20168:26 am1398 views

In an exclusive interview with Bill Pasmore, Senior Vice President of Global Organizational Leadership Development, Center for Creative Leadership, HR in Asia explores challenges to effective governance at the top and leadership development in the tech-savvy era.

Learn about the nuances of effective leadership; understand the fine line of difference between being manipulative and politically-savvy leaders, and the need to embrace new leadership styles with geographically blurring borders. Read on…

In this ever-changing global landscape, what are the main challenges faced by leaders today to ensure organisational success?

Leaders of today have to be adaptable to many circumstances due to the VUCA (Volatile, Unstable, Complex, and Ambiguous) business landscape we work in.

Additionally, technology is an ever-present disruptor of traditional methods of doing business. These digital disruptions force organisations to reform, and relook at how businesses can continue to see success amidst the churn.

As such, leaders ought to rise up to these challenges while paving the way and leading the organisation to adapt and succeed in the face of a rapidly-changing and volatile landscape.

Challenging conventional wisdom on leadership, what are the qualities you wish to see in leaders of tomorrow?

Being mobile and agile in a rapidly-transitioning environment should be a key quality that most leaders of tomorrow should possess.

Leaders must possess the leadership agility and learning resilience to make the best out of every situation and leave no stone unturned, and continually strive towards lifelong learning to improve oneself. The broader and more diverse their experiences are, the more it can allow leaders to best reflect on lessons and learn from them.

Learning agility aside, cultural agility is also highly necessary among the leaders of tomorrow – with blurring geographical borders and workplaces getting more culturally diverse and globalised, future leaders should to be able to embrace these changes, while tweaking their leadership styles where necessary.

When an employee grows to become a leader, how can they overcome changing dynamics with colleagues and peers at workplace?

The shift in dynamics from being on the same level as your other colleagues and peers into becoming their superiors can be tricky to manage. It is important to manage these relationships, lest the network of relationships built up with them before has crumbled.

It is important to be transparent and never hide anything from your employees – it is deceptive and can cost you their respect.

Confidentiality of information that only the management knows must be adhered to, but keep your colleagues and peers should be informed on what is going on inside the company and within the department.

It is important to let employees know why certain decisions were made. While some employees are not entitled to this information, keeping them in the loop is an integral part of a trusting relationship.

As leaders continually strive to build new skills and achieve organisational goals, so does their fellow colleagues and employees. Leaders should continually build and expand a network of relationships that can provide support and tutelage to these emerging leaders in order to enhance their experience.

Bill Pasmore, Senior Vice President of Global Organizational Leadership Development, Center for Creative Leadership

Bill Pasmore, Senior Vice President of Global Organizational Leadership Development, Center for Creative Leadership

Reflecting on your personal experiences, what are the key attributes to performance leadership?

There are two areas where performance leadership is critical: making decisions and developing employees. In order for the next generation of employees to respect and follow leaders, a collaborative spirit must be imbued within the department and leaders making effective decisions are crucial.

In many instances, most managers are quick to hold employees accountable for performance failures or bad behaviour. They are often quick to deflect fault to upper manager or other department heads.

However, when they fail to hold themselves accountable, they have failed to manage their people because they themselves are responsible for the actions of their employees and are responsible for the performance of their departments.

Taking into consideration the quirks of the new generation, managers willing to take a bullet for their employees are able to gain the respect and trust needed to effectively manage their people.

However, this does not mean that managers should let employees get away with poor performance or bad behaviour. It means that they should be the one holding them accountable for their actions, while they themselves are accountable to the upper management.

How do you identify the good leaders from the not so good ones?

A good leader is one that has the ability to coordinate and align the employee’s goals with the organisation’s goals. Envisioning a long-term goal helps the organisation to thrive in the business landscape in the long run.

Leaders who fail to see this usually come up with milestones and goals that provide short-term and usually immediate and visible results that may or may not be beneficial for the organisation in the long run.

Additionally, good leaders also help their organisations learn by discovering opportunities, deciding the best direction for the organisation and discerning between beneficial and detrimental decisions.

Just like individuals, organisations learn from practice, provided the learning is well-directed and well-supported. Good leaders tap onto the expertise of both senior-level staff and the support of the employees below.

What are the key differences between “leading” and “managing” a team? Are all good managers, good future leaders?

Leading a team means to inspire a team to come together to fulfil a common goal, and more often than not, the job involves motivating, consoling and working with people to keep the team bonded and eager to move forward together.

Empathy is a key trait and leaders also set the direction, and communicate it to the team and keep the morale of the team high even during turbulent times.

On the other hand, managing a team means to establish systems, create rules and operating procedures to establish a streamlined work process for the team. Although the management of the team focuses less on the people, managers usually possess strong abilities to manage people.

All good managers have the growth potential to evolve into good future leaders because of the skill sets that they possess. Most managers have grasped the ability to micromanage a handful of people, manage deadlines and manage expectations from both the team and their superiors.

These skills play an important part in people management, and are the underlying premise for leaders to establish a network of relationships with the people within their organisation. Overall, both leadership and management skill sets are necessarily to ensure organisation success.

See: Unsettling Trends in Workplace Leadership: Are Your Employees Proactively Engaged?

What are the toughest challenges to effective governance at the top and leadership?

The level of responsibility when you are at the top greatly differs from that of a junior-level employee. It is imperative that leaders remain steadfast and agile in the face of a rapidly-changing environment and continue to lead the organisation to success.

More often than not, leaders find it hard to cope with the pressure and level of responsibility because the role at the top is usually solitary. That is why, support for organisational decisions and policies from the rest of the organisation is extremely important.

Sometimes, leaders at the top tend to forget how crucial it is to listen to their subordinates before implementing policies and changes. It is amazing how much one can learn from being on the ground and getting opinions and voices from the ground – to determine the feasibility, need and fit of the proposed changes.

What are the key secrets to effective leadership? How do leaders stay motivated at all times, even during crisis situations?

Great leaders are those that are brave enough to face up to any challenging situations and deal with them openly. Transparency is essential in the work of a leader in order to win over their employee’s trust. Employees are more loyal and enthusiastic, when they work in an environment run by people they trust. Above all, leaders need to be authentic and genuine in order to win the trust of their employees.

Some leaders rank career advancements, compensations and job security as some of the key factors that motivate them. However, research has shown that while there are a significant proportion of leaders who are career-driven, many other leaders are mission-driven.

To them, work is not just about money or promotions – it is about making a difference as well as the mission of their organisation.These leaders often have the goal to break down barriers, drive collaboration between employees and management, as well as sustaining careers through immense challenges.

What can be done to help leaders develop managerial effectiveness and relationship skills?

The key to developing good relationship skills is communication. It is all about the ability to communicate and build bonds with one’s peers, and the ability to help them change, grow, develop, and resolve conflict.

Apart from picking up and refining their skills learnt from tutelages and mentorships, these leaders themselves have to play an important role in identifying and developing the next set of leaders. Although the ability to coach and develop others is a skill, that is merely a small part of the job description for managers, it has become an integral skill for managers to learn.

By providing tutelage, feedback and support for the next set of potential leaders, you can also effectively establish boundaries and build trust by being clear about the learning and development objectives, demonstrate good judgment and patience.

Where does one pick up key leadership skills and traits to emerge as powerful leaders?

Master classes and executive education programmes can help to develop leaders and groom their skills and leadership styles through role plays, while capitalising on converting research insights into on-the-ground practical application. With this guidance and education, it is crucial for leaders to go back to the basics of mastering leadership skills and traits by learning on the job as well.

In fact, the Center for Creative Leadership’s global research into how leaders learn found that, when leaders were faced with a learning challenge, 70% of what they learn is learned on the job, 20% is learned through mentors, coaches and peers and the last 10% is learned through classroom education.

Coaching and mentorship at the workplace or from external sources is extremely essential in moulding and cultivating powerful leaders. When leaders are able to get immediate and constructive feedback on their performance, and have access to role models they can emulate and learn from – you can see that they grow and learn most significantly.

How can leaders balance the needs of an organisation and at the same time, meet the needs of people in the team as well?

Leaders first need to understand that the needs of the organisation and its people are not lopsided. The successes and frustrations of either side share a symbiotic relationship – this means that the success or failure of either party will indubitably impact the other.

For leaders to learn how to manage this relationship and maintain equilibrium, they require support, opportunity, resources, and aptitude.  Moreover, they must be willing to stick with learning through some setbacks and failures until they achieve a breakthrough in their abilities to take on their full responsibilities for the organisation.

How can leaders become a source of inspiration to the team?

Start by being a great listener – observe and gather information from others and the environment. This can allow leaders to connect emotionally with their peers and understand the needs of the team.

Great leaders build lasting relationships with their colleagues and employees that are based on trust, respect and communication. Building relationships with employees does not mean that leaders have to become their friend – it just means that they have to earn their trust and respect.

An excessively friendly approach can be just as damaging to a work relationship as abusive control. Leaders must learn to be open and approachable without becoming the ‘employee’s buddy’.

Most importantly, there is a fine line between being manipulative and being politically-savvy, and having integrity and being authentic are of utmost importance. Get feedback on how your message and behaviour really comes across as to others.

What are your thoughts on the future of leadership for organisational success in the changing face of adversities? How do you envision the times coming 2020?

In light of a rapidly-changing organisational landscape, there is a need for leaders who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. This is essential because the workplace is becoming increasingly diverse, both culturally and generationally.

Over the next decade, three out of four workers globally will belong to the millennial generation. So, even though leaders may not think of themselves as global leaders, they still have to consider the reality of the changing workforce. Leaders have to understand that diversity can be an asset to be leveraged on, rather than just tolerated.

We are also witnessing the trend of women leadership. According to a report by Singapore’s Diversity Action Committee (DAC), women representation in company board seats went up from 8% in 2012 to 8.8% by the end of 2014 in Singapore.

Companies need to jump on the bandwagon and look at expanding the diversity of their boards and management committees. There are tangible benefits to ensuring that the board composition is reflective of the changing customer and employee base – higher Return-of-Investments (ROI) are measured in organisations that are more gender diverse than those that were not.


Disclaimer: This exclusive interview coverage and content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. 

Also read: In Conversation with Datuk Alexandra Chin: Empowering Women to Assume Leadership Roles in South East Asia

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