• Thought leadership and opinion pieces from Aperio FMCG Consulting.
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People from developing markets make better leaders

 

Managers who have successfully navigated developing markets, make great leaders, often better than those from developed, more stable, mature markets. 

The types of challenges these managers face every single day, the experience they gain in developing markets takes a manager in a developed market months or years to gain. The richness, complexity, diversity of different situations and the ability to get things done in a tough environment are exactly what’s required to develop strong leaders.  It doesn’t mean developed markets don’t develop great leaders, I am just saying developing markets do it better. 

By Michael Wood, director of Aperio, a business consulting company focused on accelerating growth of FMCG brands in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa

 

What qualities do managers get from developing markets that makes them better leaders ?

An ability to think on their feet, analyse information on the go and make decisions efficiently (because they have to). 

A can do attitude, solutions and results orientated, flexible and pragmatic. Take a realistic approach whilst maintaining high ambitions and standards of performance.

Inspire others to follow an achievement of a common goal even with all the complexities around day to day business distracting the organisation. 

Business leaders from developing countries all have war stories and business experiences, although they are different situations the similarity lies in their ability to analyse, overcome and lead organisations in complex and challenging environments. 

They get it, they have a deep, first hand experience and understanding of consumers in these markets, consumers that are going to fuel global growth of the companies for over the next decade or more. 

The importance of global business leaders with a developing market pedigree is even more critical when you consider the increasing size and importance of these markets to the bottom line of global companies. 

10-15 years ago developing markets offered companies the biggest growth potential, today they still do offer the biggest growth potential, but they are now fast approaching up-to half of many company’s global sales. No wonder then that we are seeing a shift in the senior leadership of most global companies, 10 years ago how many senior business leaders in global companies came from developing markets and how many are there are today.

A few examples of global leaders from developing markets;

Muhtar Kent CEO Coca Cola, worked extensively in his early years in Turkey, Central Asia and Eastern Europe in the late 80’s and early 90s. 

Werner Geissler – Vice Chairman Global Operations P&G, spent a significant portion of his career working in developing markets, including Turkey, Middle East, Africa and North Asia. 

Harish Manwani Chief Operating Officer Unilever, prior to global assignments worked across India, Central Asia and Middle East. 

Bob Dudley CEO British Petroleum, spent his formative years developing Amaco then BP in Russia, prior to that he gained experience in China. 

The leaders of globally companies over the next decade will increasingly be drawn from places like Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, China, Russia, Brazil and Turkey.

Attitudes of employees and employers to developing markets need to change, to develop leaders of the future. 

1.The next time your HR department talks to you about a great opportunity in Nigeria realise that is could be a catalyst for your career on a global level, or even better don’t wait, be proactive go and see what opportunities exist in those markets. 

2.Business leaders with a global responsibility, which are your growth markets over the next decade for your company? Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, Russia, China?  How many members of your team come from those markets? It can take 20 years to develop a senior business leader. 

3.Shift perceptions in HR: treat assignments in these countries not as “let’s see who we can find to go to these tough places”, but “let’s get our best global talent there and fast.” How can we accelerate development on a global level of the best local talent in these developing markets. 

 

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