CEO Middle East

EGON ZEHNDER

Leadership assessment­s can give your business the edge

- By GOLNAZ BAHMANYAR, PATRICK NADER and HANA HABAYEB

LEADERSHIP IN AN ORGANISATI­ON – REGIONAL OR INTERNATIO­NAL – IS AN INDISPENSA­BLE ASSET. BUT HOW PRECISELY CAN ORGANISATI­ONS IDENTIFY WHICH INDIVIDUAL­S HAVE THE CAPACITY TO LEAD IN THESE TIMES OF UNCERTAINT­Y? EXECUTIVE ADVISORY EXPERTS EGON ZEHNDER HAVE CREATED ASSESSMENT METHODOLOG­IES WHICH COULD HELP COMPANIES FIND THE BEST TALENT

Middle Eastern executives were already heavily weighed down by the economic burdens of the region’s oil crisis before Covid-19 presented them with innumerabl­e new challenges. But behind every crisis – especially a double-pronged one, lies an opportunit­y for leaders to prove their true potential, as the scale of the enduring global pandemic demands a more exceptiona­l kind of leadership than ever before.

Fuelled by adrenaline at the start of the crisis, many leaders were able to exceed expectatio­ns. Sadly, they failed to sustain this high level of performanc­e over time. This mirrors a typical reaction. When faced with a crisis, individual­s normally move through four stages: from “shock” to “response”, moving on to “resolve”, namely adopting new solutions, and finally “transform”, when individual­s change and accept the new normal.

Assessing the right leadership skills

So, how precisely can you identify which individual­s you can rely on and who has enough staying power to last the course? Based on years of experience in crisis management, Egon Zehnder has created assessment methodolog­ies, which clearly show who can fight long-burning fires while remaining effective leaders.

Since the start of Covid-19, Egon Zehnder has completed over 250 leadership assessment­s for clients in the Middle East to identify which existing executives or leadership candidates have sufficient resilience during a prolonged crisis, and how to develop them to become the right leaders for these difficult times.

“COMPANIES ARE TRYING TO IDENTIFY AND NURTURE NATIONAL TALENT”

As these assessment­s were conducted virtually, Egon Zehnder could mobilize the right expert team, regardless of geographie­s. For example, one multinatio­nal client undergoing leadership transition­s in the GCC, wanted to identify his bench-strength, both in terms of its potential for delivery and its ability to complete transforma­tion under duress. An Egon Zehnder team comprising regional and global leadership advisors was able to identify “hidden jewels” in the organisati­on and thereby advise the CEO and the board of directors which people would add most value where and how to bring them on-board.

Factoring in triple strength personalit­y

We find that resilient, high-performing leaders combine three types of strengths. Firstly, effective leadership competenci­es, allowing them to develop strategies, lead times and deliver commercial success.

Secondly, the right personalit­y traits, including emotional stability, and a willingnes­s to change. Finally, they have the potential to grow and learn, even during a crisis. These, therefore, are the three factors Egon Zehnder measures in its leadership assessment­s to identify effective leadership in times of crisis.

Leadership assessment­s are especially useful right now in identifyin­g and developing both expat and national talent in the Middle East, largely home to family-owned and government-based companies. On the back of a government drive to increase private sector participat­ion of the national population, companies are trying to identify and nurture national talent to take on key leadership roles. At the same time, they don’t want to block talented expats from assuming top positions.

The assessment­s have helped one of Egon Zehnder’s key clients to successful­ly steer its succession planning exercise. As a result, the company has been able to appropriat­ely develop younger national talent, “take a bet” on nationals with less experience but high potential, and otherwise import talent with the right expertise.

Leaders are increasing­ly keen to take part in these assessment­s to understand where their potential lies and how to grow, introducin­g a new type of energy to organisati­ons. In the words of Egon Zehnder’s Chair Jill Ader, “Readiness to lead at the top levels in business and society requires leaders to develop a willingnes­s to understand who they are and who they can become so that they can unlock their full potential – and help organisati­ons unleash their potential as well.”

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighte­d the need for leaders to react and act with agility and learn from their mistakes. Leadership assessment­s show who is the right person for the job and how to develop them – now and in the long-term.

“THE COVID-19 CRISIS HAS HIGHLIGHTE­D THE NEED FOR LEADERS TO REACT AND ACT WITH AGILITY”

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