Show you can lead

I recently witnessed two senior candidates interviewing for a China CEO role. Both candidates had great track records and talent – but only one was able to stand out as a leader.

The unsuccessful candidate – let’s call him Mr Manager – had plenty of experience in government relations, a key requirement for the job. He had even managed a major government relations crisis for a multinational in China, with noted success.

But this was not sufficient for the role. In his interviews, Mr Manager failed to distil this experience into a compelling point of view. He didn’t have the curiosity to look further than his own circle, or the courage to voice a view that might be controversial.

The other candidate, Mr Leader, made a very different impression. He reflected on the major topics on the local government’s agenda that would most affect multinationals over the long term. He also displayed keen insight about where government and multinational interests might converge.

He argued a specific policy was in the government’s interest and would support the country’s focus on sustainability. He then made a convincing case about how the company could build an “ecosystem of influence” to inform government policy on this topic, and contribute to sustainable solutions.

The board loved Mr Leader – and hired him. The fact that he came from a different industry was no barrier. He demonstrated insight of the company’s challenges, foresight to shape a long-term strategy, and charisma to build a high-performing team. Most of all, he was authentic, comfortable in his skin, willing to express his true beliefs, and ready to break new ground.

This article is republished with kind permission of the South China Morning Post where Catherine Zhu is a regular contributor.

Connect with us

  • Find a consultant
    Select an office
    • Amsterdam
    • Athens
    • Atlanta
    • Bangalore
    • Barcelona
    • Beijing
    • Berlin
    • Bogotá
    • Boston
    • Bratislava
    • Brussels
    • Budapest
    • Buenos Aires
    • Calgary
    • Chicago
    • Copenhagen
    • Dallas
    • Dubai
    • Düsseldorf
    • Frankfurt
    • Geneva
    • Hamburg
    • Helsinki
    • Hong Kong
    • Houston
    • Istanbul
    • Jakarta
    • Jeddah
    • Johannesburg
    • Kuala Lumpur
    • Lisbon
    • London
    • Los Angeles
    • Luxembourg
    • Lyon
    • Madrid
    • Malmö
    • Melbourne
    • Mexico
    • Miami
    • Milan
    • Montreal
    • Moscow
    • Mumbai
    • Munich
    • New Delhi
    • New York
    • Oslo
    • Palo Alto
    • Paris
    • Prague
    • Rio de Janeiro
    • Rome
    • San Francisco
    • Santiago
    • São Paulo
    • Seoul
    • Shanghai
    • Singapore
    • Stockholm
    • Stuttgart
    • Sydney
    • Tel Aviv
    • Tokyo
    • Toronto
    • Vienna
    • Warsaw
    • Washington DC
    • Zurich
    Select an expertise
    • Executive Search
    • Board Consulting
    • CEO Practice
    • Executive Assessment and Development
    • Family Business Advisory
    • Diversity and Inclusion
    • Accelerated Integration
    • Financial Officers
    • Human Resources
    • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
    • Legal, Regulatory & Compliance Professionals
    • Chief Marketing Officers
    • Supply Chain
    • Sustainability
    • Communications and Public Affairs Officers
    • Consumer
    •     Consumer Products
    •     Media, Entertainment & Sports
    •     Retail, Apparel and Luxury Goods
    • Financial Services
    •     Asset Management
    •     Retail Financial Services
    •     Investment Banking, Corporate Banking & Markets
    •     Insurance
    •     Private Equity
    •     Wealth Management
    •     Risk Management
    •     Financial Tech
    •     Infrastructure
    •     Sovereign Wealth Funds
    • Health
    • Technology and Communications
    •     Telecommunications
    •     Digital
    •     Systems, Services and Software
    •     Semiconductors
    •     Intelligent Systems
    •     Mobile Devices and Apps
    •     Cyber Security
    •     Big Data
    • Industrial
    •     Automotive and Transportation Equipment
    •     Building Components
    •     Chemical and Process Industries
    •     Energy and CleanTech
    •     Machinery & Industrial Technology
    •     Mining & Metals
    • Services
    •     Transport & Logistics
    •     Travel & Hospitality
    •     Business Services
    •     Real Estate Services
    •     Professional Services
    • Private Equity
    •     Sovereign Wealth Funds
    • Public and Social Sector
  • Your Career