Knowledge Center: Article

Leadership Talent Strategy

The qualities executive search consultants seek in senior executives in China


The following article originally appeared China Economic Weekly. To view the original article, please click here.

TIANJIN – During the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China Economic Weekly interviewed George Huang, Partner-in-Charge of Heidrick & Struggles’ Beijing office. Heidrick & Struggles is a leading senior executive search and leadership advisory firm – so what do their search consultants consider the most significant qualities for senior executives?

“In general, there is a strong talent pool of local executives in China. However, there is still a deficit at top management levels. Finding senior executives with the right set of skills, strong leadership competencies, an international mindset and extensive local know-how remains a challenge for many multinationals as well as local enterprises,” said Karen Fifer, Global Managing Partner of the Consumer Markets Practice and leader of the Heidrick & Struggles delegation.

In 2012, China surpassed the European Union in terms of the percentage of GDP spent on research and development (R&D), spending 1.98% or almost US$165 billion. In 2014, China will account for 17.5% of total global R&D spending. At the current rate of growth, China could be spending more than the United States on R&D by the end of the decade. The focus of all this investment ranges from customer experience, products and services, to systems and processes, but is always powered by people and company leadership. 

Huang said that the key differentiator between senior executive search firms and other smaller search firms is that the former provide end-to-end services – they do not merely fill the role, but rather find the most appropriate candidate based on the understanding of the company’s corporate culture. 

Huang noted that Heidrick & Struggles has developed an ‘innovative CEO leadership model’. This model includes several qualities that define innovative CEOs and C-suite executives: 

Entrepreneurial mindset: The most innovative executives take calculated risks, think long term, are committed to their strategies and are willing to fund them.

Clear vision: They identify and define their vision and objectives, and outline what they want to achieve and how to achieve it.

Empowering and energizing: Innovative CEOs and executives create an empowered organizational culture that rewards creative thinking. They instill a company culture that allows and encourages employees to take risks and think outside the box.

Effective leadership: These CEOs identify gaps in innovative talent within their organizations, and take the right steps to develop and nurture capable R&D and innovation departments.