Developing Leaders in Emerging Markets

Develop your leaders early if you want to be successful in emerging markets such as India.

By Abraham Zachariah, Vice President, Capability Development Lead- India, Business Process Outsourcing, Accenture

Arguably one of the biggest challenges most organizations face today in emerging markets such as India is the ability to manage a young work force and channel their abundant energies. This young work force is restless and tech savvy, seeks instant gratification, and needs to be constantly challenged and engaged. To top it all off, they seem to have numerous options in front of them, and loyalty to the organization is no longer considered a virtue.

To manage this explosive talent, one needs three key abilities:

  1. The ability to understand and empathize with this generation.
  2. The ability to channel this energy with extreme maturity.
  3. The ability to handle the immense pressure of the business and of the team.

The explosive growth rate in these economies has ensured that almost all organizations are forced to rely on young managers who are struggling with the lack of experience of managing people, limited ability to handle pressure, and the lack of the business acumen and maturity to guide people. The result is akin to the blind leading the blind. Three key points organizations need to take care off to address this issue are:

  1. Start the talent management process early. Organizations need to start the talent management process at the recruitment stage. This means not just selecting people who are good for the job, but being be trained to identify people with leadership potential. Clear systems and processes should be defined for talent and potential assessment. The average age of a people manager is 25 with approximately four years of work experience. So organizations need to build a robust plan to have a three- to four-year plan. In fact, the sooner we start, the better. Good organizations start at the college levels by partnering with college authorities to build talent.
  2. Differentiate between performance and potential. Many organizations make the potential mistake of promoting high performers without understanding the skills and competencies required to perform the next job. When it comes to people management, if one gets it wrong, the biggest worry would be that of losing some of your best performers, which typically would hamper the ability to deliver business results. While performance is key and one of the most vital ingredients to the success of the business, ensuring that people continue to deliver high performance is of greater importance. To ensure that, one must choose first-line managers very carefully, put them through a rigorous training process, and only then allow them to lead people. Probably the only type of organization that has excelled in this area is the defense forces, where young officers lead huge battalions of seasoned soldiers.
  3. Drastically alter the role of HR and business managers. One of the key changes both HR and business managers need to embrace as a metric and drive like they drive conventional metrics is “the number of ready-now managers under them.” The Human Resources department needs to redefine the way it attracts, compartmentalizes, and manages talent—not just at senior leadership levels but right at the beginning. Business managers need to understand that the key to ensuring consistent delivery of service and products to their clients largely depends on how well their workforce is managed. As such, they need to spend most of their time ensuring leadership is fostered and developed.

All of this requires a huge change in the very DNA of the organization. Much more needs to done at a fundamental level of leadership development if organizations want to move up the value chain and not spend their energies on ensuring day-to-day deliverables are met.

Abraham Zachariahis Vice President and Capability Development Lead- India, Business Process Outsourcing at Accenture,a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. For more information, visit

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