- December 8, 2023
Generational shift: How young leaders are rising in India Inc.
Traditionally, associated with age, seniority and experience, executive hiring & development decisions are witnessing a paradigm shift with the ascent of young leaders who are not only making their mark but reshaping the very fabric of corporate leadership.
We want CXOs in their 40s; we need leaders who can operate with a digital lens; how do we get our performance superstars prepped to deliver as leaders of large P&Ls & multi-disciplinary teams? These are some of the prevailing inquiries and considerations which are frequently voiced by senior management of companies.
A profound transformation is underway in the world of leadership of India Inc. Traditionally, associated with age, seniority and experience, executive hiring & development decisions are witnessing a paradigm shift with the ascent of young leaders who are not only making their mark but reshaping the very fabric of corporate leadership.
From scions taking over business divisions in conglomerates to the trailblazing founders of startups and dynamic leaders of corporate firms, the face of leadership is changing. Indeed, we are observing a trend where young board members are being appointed to serve on boards of companies that target Gen Z and millennials as their primary audience, reflecting the demographic they aim to engage.
Three significant factors are reshaping the leadership landscape:
Acceptance of the digital era – One of the foremost drivers of this shift has been the pervasive influence of digital transformation across industries which is now integral to business strategies, customer interactions and operations. In response to this change, organizations are recognizing the necessity of younger, savvy leaders who can navigate the digital terrain and devise innovative solutions to contemporary challenges.
Explosive growth ambitions of India Inc. – Indian & multinational businesses are no longer content with incremental growth. Instead, they are setting their sights on bold and ambitious plans, often aiming for 5x to 10x expansion. This necessitates a significant influx of leaders and managers at various levels of the organization. As a result, founders, investors, and corporate boards are actively engaging in identifying and nurturing young leaders—a practice that has gained considerable traction in recent years.
Rise of young entrepreneurs – The rise of young entrepreneurs is challenging the traditional leadership model. A new generation of business leaders is emerging, founding companies, securing funding, and pioneering innovative business models. As they rise in prominence, they are underscoring the significance of youthful leadership.
While the need for younger leaders is evident, organizations face a dual challenge and opportunity – to effectively nurture the next generation of leaders while ensuring a balanced leadership bench and seamless leadership transitions. Many organizations are grappling with how best to cultivate and harness this emerging talent pool.
Here are four strategies companies can deploy to systematically nurture and develop talent:
- Assess for Potential not Performance:Traditional leadership assessment often emphasized experience and knowledge, but this is evolving. Young leaders may not possess decades of multidisciplinary experience, but they bring deep expertise in specific domains. Forward-thinking companies are adopting scientific methods to assess and develop these leaders, focusing on potential and coaching them to broaden their skill sets.
- Recognize and Develop High Potentials:Early recognition of high potential young talent allows for tailored grooming and alignment of skills with the growing needs of the organization. Beyond the traditional notion of climbing the career ladder, organizations are now encouraging movement along the career lattice to acquire new skills and experience that will benefit in the long run. This approach allows high potentials to navigate across different functions, departments, and roles, fostering a dynamic and adaptable workforce.
- Harness the synergies of Succession Planning and Scientific Leadership Programs: Succession planning must go hand in hand with leadership development. A well-structured succession plan, coupled with leadership development initiatives, creates a robust pipeline of the next generation of leaders. Scientifically designed programs help leaders identify their styles and help them learn various leadership approaches, yielding better results.
- Unlock the Potential of Middle Management: There should be a deliberate effort to create an environment and organizational structure that facilitates collaboration between experienced and younger leaders. While senior management often receives significant attention, development programs targeting the middle layer can yield remarkable long-term results.
In conclusion, while age and experience have their value, there is now a greater acceptance of younger leaders who are bringing fresh perspectives, digital acumen, and the ability to drive innovation beyond the status quo. To stay competitive and relevant, organizations must invest in systematically identifying, developing, and channelling the potential of these emerging leaders. This shift represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of leadership in India Inc., one that promises to shape the future of the business landscape for years to come.
Harish Bhatia, an advisor to business leaders & CXOs and a Partner at Korn Ferry India, penned this piece for Business Today.
Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.