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Future leaders need more knowledge and skills

Media Release
11 December, 2008

Global survey shows future leaders need more knowledge and skills
in changing world

A global survey of nearly 200 CEOs and senior executives shows that 76% of senior executives believe it is important that current and future leaders have the knowledge and skills to respond to issues of global sustainability, but fewer than 8% believe that their own organisations or business schools are doing an effective job in developing these.

The survey was part of research presented at the first UN-backed Global Forum for Responsible Management Education in New York earlier this month. Ten business schools around the world – including the University of Waikato Management School -- participated in the research project, which was led by the UK’s Ashridge Business School in association with the European Academy for Business in Society (EABIS), supported by IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Shell and Unilever.

The survey identified three clusters of knowledge and skills essential for management to respond effectively to new challenges and opportunities presented by resource scarcity, the low carbon economy and doing business in emerging markets marked by poverty, corruption and human rights violations.

Context – In a rapidly changing business environment, 82% of those polled say they need to understand the business risks and opportunities of environmental and social trends. Nearly three-quarters (70%) say the global leader of tomorrow needs to be able to factor these trends into strategic decision making.

Complexity – In situations marked by little certainty and much disagreement, 88% cite the ability to be flexible and responsive to change as important and 91% identify the need to be able to find creative, innovative and original ways of solving problems.

Connectedness – Leaders need the ability to understand the actors in the wider political landscape, with 73% agreeing on the need to be able to identify key stakeholders and 80% on the importance of being able to build effective relationships with new kinds of external partners.

Waikato Management School’s Professor Juliet Roper, who participated in the research project, says the findings show significant overlap with the six key MBA graduate attributes identified by the Asia-Pacific Academy of Business in Society (APABIS) at its conference in Singapore in October.

“We provided Ashridge with our list of attributes, which include having an understanding of social and environmental trends and being able to understand their business implications, understanding a complex global business environment and being able to engage with multiple stakeholders,” says Roper, who is founding director and president of APABIS and a key researcher in the field of sustainable business.

“It’s encouraging that business leaders too have identified these areas as crucial for developing the global leaders of tomorrow. Now it is up to business schools and business organisations to find ways to incorporate this knowledge and skills into innovative and effective learning programmes.”

The University of Waikato Management School is the only New Zealand business school to have signed up to the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). The School’s dean, Professor Frank Scrimgeour, was one of six business school heads from around the world invited to address the concluding session of the First Global Forum for Responsible Management Education.


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